Special Fiction Saturday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 30

As promised, here is another chapter, or part of one, for a special fiction Saturday. I know there are many of us who would love a distraction from the news right now.

To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE. I posted Chapter 29, yesterday.

Chapter 30

A sob choked out of Alex, bile rising into his throat.

“Oh, God, no.”

He fell to the ground next to Robert gently touching his shoulder, dragging in a ragged breath.

He leaned closer. “Robert, I’m going to get this tractor off you. You’re going to be okay.”

Robert swallowed hard and blinked his eyes. It was Alex’s first indication he was still alive.

The saturated ground must have given away under Robert, tipping the tractor into the ravine, onto its side, trapping him underneath it.

Robert tried to raise his hand, but it fell again to his side. “Alex. . .”

Alex shook his head. He had to get this tractor off Robert. He had to find out where the blood was coming from. He could tell by Robert’s labored breathing he wouldn’t last much longer if he couldn’t draw a deeper breath. The tractor was crushing his sternum and ribcage.

“Don’t talk. I’ll be right back. I need a lever or something to help me get this off you.”

Robert shook his head weakly. “Too . . .heavy.”

Alex reached for his phone in his back pocket.

It wasn’t there.

He ran to the truck, searching the front seat frantically. He cursed, remembering he’d left it at the house that morning. Running to the barn he ripped the door open and ran inside, looking for something he could wedge under the tractor to lift it.

He found a 2×4 and hooked it under his arm, dragging back to the tractor. Wedging it under the hood of the tractor, which was now embedded into the soil that had been softened by the recent rain, he pushed down on it, let up when he realized it wasn’t in the group deep enough and wedged it further down.

“Alex . . .”

He ignored Robert as he shoved the end of the 2×4 deeper into the ground. The wind had picked up and rain began to pelt his face. When he thought the board was wedged in deep enough, he pushed down, relieved as the tractor began to rise. He realized he wasn’t sure what he was going to do once he got the tractor up off the ground, if he even could, but it was a start.

The crack of the board under the weight of the tractor sounded like a gunshot.

Alex closed his eyes against the pain as the jagged end of the broken board ripped across his ribcage and sliced a gash into his flesh. He was afraid to open his eyes again and see that he had hurt Robert worse in his impatience.

He held his arm across his side and quickly crawled to Robert, leaning over so he could block his face from the rain.

“Are you okay?”                                            

“Alex, stop.” Robert’s voice was barely audible. “Listen . . . please.”

Alex started to stand again. “I’m going to go get help, Robert.”

Robert weakly grabbed Alex’s arm. “Listen to me.”

Alex leaned closer, tears stinging his eyes. “I don’t have time to —”

Robert’s words gasped out in short bursts as he tried to drag air into his lungs. “If I . . . don’t make it  . . .” He grimaced and dragged a breath in sharply. “I need you . . . and Jason to take care of Annie . . . and Molly.”

Alex shook his head. “Robert, you’re going to be fine. Don’t talk like that.”

Robert swallowed hard, gasping in a breath. “But if I don’t …”

 Alex shook his head again. “Not talking about it. You’re going to be fine.”

“Alex,” Robert grabbed his wrist tightly with all the strength he had left. “Please. Promise . . .”

Alex tightened his jaw, fighting back emotion. “I promise, Robert. I promise I’ll take care of Molly and Annie, but you’re going to be there to help me.”

The sound of a truck brought Alex’s head up. His heart rate increased at the sight of Molly pulling her truck in behind his.

“It’s Molly, she’ll —”

“No.”  Robert’s words came out in short gasps. “Don’t  . . . .let her  . . . see me like . . . this. Stop her.”

Alex ran full force up the hill as Molly started walking toward him. Her face fell as soon as she saw him.

“Alex! You’re bleeding! What happened?”

He grabbed her by the shoulders. “I’m fine, but I need you to go to the house. Okay? Call an ambulance on the way and then get Jason.”

“What’s going on?” Molly strained to look around him. “Where’s my dad?”

He cradled her face in his hands. “Molly, look at me.”

Panic flashed across her face as she gripped his upper arms. “Alex, is my dad under that tractor?”

“Molly —”

“Alex! Tell me!”

She tried to pull away. “Daddy!”

Alex tightened his hands on her face. “Molly! Look at me!”

Tears filled her eyes as she focused her gaze on his. Her eyes pleaded for him to tell her that her dad wasn’t under the tractor. He wished he could tell her that.

“Your dad is talking to me. That’s a good sign. I need you to call an ambulance and then I need you to call Jason and tell him to get down here. Then go back to the house and wait with your mom. Got it? Your dad doesn’t want you here, okay?” Her eyes darted away from his briefly, back toward the tractor. He moved closer to her, his hands still on her face. “Do you understand?”

Molly nodded slowly, taking a deep breath, choking back a sob. “Okay.”


As Molly ran toward her truck. Alex ran to the barn, searching for something to protect Robert from the rain. He found a tarp, pulling it across the tires of the tractor until it made a tent over the man who had taught him more about life than anyone else, other than his grandfather. Robert’s breaths were shallow, his eyes closed.

Alex shivered, his clothes soaked from the rain hitting him like ice pellets. Glancing at his ripped shirt he grimaced at the sight of dark red blood oozing from a deep gash across his ribs and upper abdomen. Searing pain pulsated through him as he propped the tarp up, the movement stretching the wound open further.

“You’re bleeding,” Robert said softly.

Alex shrugged a shoulder. “I’m fine.  No more talking. Save your air for breathing, okay?”

Robert’s eyelids closed as he nodded slowly.

It seemed like an eternity before Alex heard Jason’s truck pulled in next to his.

“Alex?! Dad?!”

Alex stepped around the tractor. “Down here!”

Jason stared at his father’s motionless form for a brief second before ripping the tarp back and propping his hands against the tractor’s mud covered back tire.

“Get on the other side!” He shouted at Alex to be heard over the rain. “Push when I tell you to!”

“What if the tractor falls again?” Alex shouted back.

“Just push!”

Metal and rocks sliced at Jason and Alex’s hands as they pushed until the tractor rolled back enough that it wasn’t laying on Robert anymore. Alex dragged a hand across his face to try to see through the rain, a sick ache clutching at his stomach at the way Robert’s legs were grotesquely twisted away from each other.

The blaring squeal of an ambulance siren drowned out Jason’s voice as he fell to the ground to speak to Robert. Alex didn’t need to know what Jason was saying. Whatever it was, it was between a father and son. He turned his face away, choking back emotion as he heard bits and pieces  between the blares of the siren.

“Jason . . .”

“Save your energy, Dad. We’ll talk at the hospital.”

“Jason.” Robert struggled to draw a breath in. “I love you.”

Jason’s voice broke as he spoke. “I love you too, Dad. You’re going to be fine, okay?”

Alex and Jason both stepped back as several local volunteer fire fighters pulled in behind the ambulance, jumping out of their trucks and rushing across the soaked field, two of them almost falling as their feet slipped in the mud. Tarps were expertly erected to protect them and Robert from the rain.

Alex recognized most of the men, many of whom Jason had introduced him to over the years; former classmates of Jason’s, local business owners who also served as volunteer fire fighters, even the mayor of Spencer.

After they examined Robert, assessing the extent of his injuries, several of the fire fighters and the EMTs gathered around him and Robert quickly, yet somehow still gently, from the ground to a backboard. From there they carried him toward the back of the ambulance, doing their best to shield him from the rain,

Molly’s truck pulled in behind Alex’s as the EMT’s reached the back of the ambulance, Annie rushing from the passenger side. Her hair, usually pulled up on top of her head, had fallen loose and was soaked, matted against her face.

One hand reached toward the ambulance, another holding her sweater closed. “Robert!”

Alex turned quickly and met her, his arms grasping her against his chest as she strained to reach the stretcher. She sobbed, clutching Alex’s arms, straining against him, her face streaked with tears and raindrops.

“Annie!” one of the EMTs shouted over the sound of the rain and the growl of the ambulance engine. “Robert’s asking for you. You can ride with us.”

Alex let Annie go and watched through the tears he’d been trying hard to hold back as she stumbled toward the back of the ambulance. He dragged a blood covered hand across his cheek to wipe tears and raindrops from his face and saw Molly as she turned away from the scene, her face pale, hand pressed against her mouth, and eyes wide.

He took a step, reached out for her, and then collapsed as blackness stretched across his vision.


Visions of her dad’s pale face against the white sheet of the stretcher in the back of the ambulance merged with visions of Alex lying unconscious at her feet, bleeding from his stomach and side. This morning she’d woke up simply looking forward to lunch with her best friend. The day had spiraled out of control very fast starting with Jessie and now here she was, 8 hours later, sitting next to her brother in his pickup, speeding toward the hospital behind two ambulances, one carrying her father, the other carrying the man she’d fallen in love with.

She’d used up most of her tears and now sat staring through the windshield with bloodshot eyes, feeling numb and emotionally spent.

“You okay?”                                                                                        

She glanced at Jason. “I don’t know. You?”

Her brother laughed softly. “Hardly.”

They drove in silence for a few more moments, the sound of tires on the pavement humming a rhythm.

Jason cleared his throat. “So, what did I walk in on today with you and Alex?”

Molly rolled her eyes and leaned her head against the window. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Did he screw it up already?”

Molly glared. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Jason shrugged. “It’s just Alex. He screws up stuff sometimes.”

“We just had to talk about something I’d heard,” Molly said with a sigh.

“About Jessie Landry?”

She lifted her head and looked at him with raised eyebrows. “How do you know about that?”

He shrugged again. “He told me about it.”

“What did he say?”

“He said he’d brought her back to the house, but told her he couldn’t sleep with her, and she left in a huff.”

“Do you believe him?”

Jason glanced at her, then back to the road. “Yeah, I do. She wasn’t there when I got home from being out with Ellie, and she wasn’t there in the morning. Plus, he was pretty annoyed when I harassed him about it.” A smile flicked across his mouth. “I didn’t know what stopped him then but now I have to wonder . . .” He glanced at her again. “Maybe it was not something, but someone.”

After a couple moments of silence, he glanced at her again. “Do you believe him?”

She sighed, watching houses and farms speed by the window. Alex had already told her it had been someone that had stopped him from sleeping with Jessie and that someone was her.

“Yeah,” she said softly. “I do.”

She tipped her head against the window again, looking out at the ambulance taillights fading in front of them. She closed her eyes briefly and rubbed them, wishing she was in the ambulance with Alex, hoping he was okay. Bradley Lester, one of the ambulance crew who she’d graduated with, had told her he thought it was blood loss that had knocked Alex unconscious, but they’d know more at the hospital.

A thought struck her.

“How did you know about me and Alex?”

The sun had dipped below the horizon and bright red streaked between streaks of yellow.

A slight smile tugged at Jason’s mouth. “I saw you two kissing outside the diner the other day.”


Jason made a face. “It made me want to throw up.”

Molly laughed at her brother, knowing she shouldn’t, but saying it anyhow. “Not me.”

Jason stuck his tongue out and made a gagging noise. “Yuck.”

 They drove for a few more minutes in silence. They were almost to the hospital.

“Were you mad?”

He grinned. “Heck yeah. I almost punched Alex out. Instead I just shoved him across the diner.”

Molly looked at her brother with wide eyes. “Why did you do that?”

Jason flicked the turn signal for the hospital exit. “Because you’re my sister. Alex is my best friend, but he’s not great with relationships. I didn’t want you to be another casualty to his inability to commit.”

Molly thought about her conversation with Alex that night in the barn. He knew he’d made mistakes in the past. He wanted to change, he’s said, and she couldn’t help but believe him.

“I think he’s trying to change,” she said softly.

“Yeah. He is.” Jason stopped at a stoplight and looked at her. “And you’re the reason why.”

Molly blew out a long breath. “I don’t think I’m —“

“You are, Molly.” The light was still red, and he was still looking at her. “You’re worth any man changing for. Don’t ever doubt that.” He laughed softly as the light flicked to green. “He’s probably going to screw up things from time to time, but he told me he loves you and I believe him, even if it makes me nervous. I promised I’d help him change.”

He grinned as he turned the truck into the hospital driveway. “I also promised I’d beat him to a pulp if he hurts you.”

Molly punched her brother’s shoulder playfully. “Ah, having your brother promise to beat the crap out of someone for you. That’s sibling love right there.”

Jason pulled into the parking lot next to the emergency room entrance and shifted the truck into park. Molly’s mind raced from Alex to her Dad.

“They’re going to be okay, Mol.”

She nodded, blowing out a shaky breath.

“Did you call Ellie?” she asked as they made their way toward the emergency room.

Jason didn’t answer for a few moments. His eyebrows had dipped low, his eyes narrowed. “No. Not yet.”

She looked at him, confused. “Do you want me to call her? I think she’d want to know.”

He shook his head and chewed at the inside of his lip. “No. That’s fine. I’ll call her later. Things are just —” He let out a sigh. “Confusing right now.”

“Confusing how?”

 He shrugged. “Alex isn’t the only one who knows how to screw up a good thing.” He opened the hospital door for her. “Come on. Let’s find Dad and Alex and we can’t talk about my love life another time.”

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.

Fiction . . . uh . . . Saturday: The Farmer’s Daughter, Chapter 19 Part 2

Yes, I wrote another long chapter so this is part two of Chapter 19 and you can find part 1 HERE. To catch up with the rest of the story, which I feature every Friday, click HERE or find the link at the top of the page. This is a “novel in progress” and when it is finished I usually toss it up on Kindle for friends, family, and blog readers to read in full (after I fix plot holes, edit, rewrite and hopefully fix typos).

Sitting at the bar with his third bottle of beer in front of him, Alex dragged his hands through his hair and wished he could drink until he couldn’t think anymore. He knew he couldn’t, though. He’d finished the days chores, but Robert could need him at any time of the day. He hated the idea of Robert seeing him with glazed over eyes or a hangover. That had happened only once before and Alex had felt the stinging rush of humiliation when Robert sent him out of the barn and ordered him to sleep it off. Thankfully Robert had accepted his apology.

It wasn’t the first time in his life Alex had felt the sting of humiliation. In fact, he’d felt it many times in his life and often when a man much better than him had to correct him on one of his many mistakes.

“You need to make a decision on what kind of man you want to be, Alexander Timothy Stone,” his grandfather had said to him as they drove away from the jail one night in his grandfather’s old pick up.

Col. Paul Madigan. Career Marine. Retired by the time Alex was in high school; just in time to whip his own grandson into shape. Or at least try to.

Even at 67 he had still been an imposing man. Six feet tall, broad shoulders and chest, square jawline

“What do you think you’re proving pulling all this stuff, boy?” his grandfather had asked him. “You’re not proving that you’re a real man. You’re not proving you’re better than your father. Is that what you’re trying to do? Get his attention? It’s not going to work. You know that. Your father doesn’t care about anyone other than himself, boy. You better think about what you want for your future, who you want to be. You want to be someone your future children can be proud of.”

His grandfather’s jaw clenched, his hands gripping the steering wheel tight. He’d let out a long breath and then shook his head.

“I know one thing, though, boy, no matter what you do, I won’t top loving you. I know there’s a man inside that body of a boy. I know there is a man who wants to be better, who wants to be what a man should be – responsible, trustworthy, and able to provide for his family. A man people will want to look up to one day, not shake their heads at.”

Alex had wanted to be a better man, to be what his grandfather had wanted him to be and somedays he thought he was on the way to being that better man, but today he really didn’t care anymore.

He needed a break from trying to be better. It was exhausting.

Country music blared from the speakers and cigarette smoke filtered across the bar like the haze filtering across his mind. The bar was sparsely crowded with only two other people sitting on actual bar stools near him, the rest scattered around the dimly lit inside of the bar, sitting at tables or leaning against the pool tables.

Blond hair spilled over his shoulder, interrupting his thoughts. Someone leaned against his back, a clearly feminine arm draping over his shoulder, a strong smell of alcohol and perfume hitting him.

“Hey, farm boy. You look like you need a friend.”

He glanced over his shoulder, his face now inches away from the face of a woman he’d met in the same bar a few months before. What was her name again?

 He struggled to remember.




The woman’s smile was broad, her eyelids heavy under dark blue eyeshadow. Her bright red lipstick matched her blouse which featured a low cut v-neck that clearly revealed her cleavage. “Remember me?”

“Uh. . .yeah. . . hey … Jackie.”

She rolled her eyes and giggled.

“Jessie, silly.”

Jessie. Right. Jessie Landry.

“Right. Jessie. Hey. How’s it going?”

Jessie slid onto the stool next to him and leaned an elbow on the bar. “Good, but you look like you’ve seen better days.”

Alex shrugged, taking another swig of beer. “Yeah. I guess.”

Jessie smiled slyly and tipped her head. “Fight with your girlfriend?”

A slight smile tugged at Alex’s lips at he looked at her.

“No girlfriend to have a fight with.”

“No wife either?” Her tone was playful now as she slide her hand along the bar toward is arm.

“No woman to speak of,” he said, looking back toward the stack of bottles behind the bar.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jessie push her lower lip out and tip her head to the other side. She crossed one long leg over another, her high heels clicking on the bottom rung of the stool.

“Aw. That’s so sad. Someone so good looking shouldn’t be so alone.”

Alex laughed softly and shook his head. He knew a flirt when he saw one, even with all the alcohol in his system, and this Jessie Landry was definitely one of those.

Music thudded from the jukebox on the other side of the bar. Bodies pushed into the center of the room, moving and swaying to the rhythm. Jessie slid off the bar stool and began to dance next to him. That’s when he noticed her too short mini skirt and her too tight bright red shirt. She tugged at his arm as she danced, hips moving from side to side.  

“Come on. Dance with me. It will make you feel better.”

“I don’t dance,” he said with a smirk, sipping the beer.

She leaned close to him and winked. “Then just stand out here with me and I’ll dance around you, silly.

His senses dulled by the beer, Alex staggered from the stool as she grabbed his hand, letting her lead him to the center of the floor. She gyrated slowly in front of him, her straight blond hair bouncing back and forth across her back and shoulders as she moved down to the floor and back up again, sliding her hands up his legs seductively.

He watched her through bleary eyes, drowsy from the beer, admiring her slender form and the way her body curved in all the right places.

When a slow song came on, she slid her arms around his neck and stepped close to him, pressing her body into his. He questioned himself briefly about why she was being so forward — they’d only met once or twice before, yet here she was dancing with him liked they’d been dating for months. He dismissed the thought almost as quickly as he’d thought it as she tipped her head back, revealing a long bare neck, the top of her shirt pulling down and drawing his eyes to where he knew he shouldn’t be looking.

Her voice was whiny as she flipped her head back up and pressed her forehead against his. “It’s so boring here tonight. We should think of something else we could do…” She trailed her finger down the front of his shirt, letting her eyes drift down and then up again, then leaned close and seductively whispered the last word. “Together.”

Alex watched her for a moment, lowered his eyes to her full lips and shrugged. Why not? It wasn’t as if someone Molly would ever be interested in someone like him. An alcoholic loser like him. A heathen someone like Ben Oliver might say. Why not take his mind of Molly and how he wouldn’t ever be good enough for her?

He grinned at Jessie and laid his hand against her thigh. A familiar need pulsated within him.

Her jerked his head toward the door. “You want to get out of here? I know somewhere we can have a lot more fun.”

Jessie giggled and nodded. She took his hand as he broke their embrace, and followed him out into the parking lot. When she climbed up into his truck and closed the door behind her, she slid next to him and laid her hand on his upper thigh, rubbing it gently as he shifted the truck into gear.

He drove toward the house, glad to know he’d soon have a way to take his mind off Molly, his failures, and his confusion about life in general.

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 19 Part I

I have another long chapter this week so I have split it into two parts and once again won’t make anyone who wants to read it wait until next Friday but will share the second half of the chapter on a special fiction Saturday.

I hope you are all doing well. Stay calm and reading fiction as a distraction. Trust me on this. It helps.

To catch up with the rest of The Farmer’s Daughter, click HERE or see the link at the top of the page.

Molly groped for her cellphone in the dark, her heart racing. It had startled her out of a deep sleep. “Molly?”


She didn’t recognize the voice in her drowsy stupor.

“It’s Allie. I’m at the hospital. I’m not supposed to do this. I could probably get fired for calling you, but Liz won’t let us call her parents. She only wants you and I don’t think she should be alone.”

Molly sat up abruptly. “What happened?”

The following brief silence hinted that what had happened was more complex than what could be explained over the phone.

“Umm, I’m going to let Liz tell you when you get here.”

The drive to the hospital gave Molly’s imagination plenty of time to run wild. A variety of scenarios flitted across her mind’s eye and with each one her grip on the steering wheel tightened.

Liz’s hospital room was dark and quiet when Molly walked in with only a strip of light pouring in from the streetlamp outside the window. Allie had met Molly at the nurse’s station, nodding toward Room 22 with an expression that exuded sympathy. Molly didn’t even bother asking Allie what had happened again. She knew Liz would need to tell her.

The beep of the heart monitor and voices of nurses in the hallway were the only sound when Molly stepped inside and closed the door behind her.


Molly’s best friend since grade school laid curled up in a ball under the covers in the hospital bed, her honey blond hair hung limply across her back and shoulders. Her eyes were closed and pale skin blended in with the moonlight spreading across the pillow under her head, her face void of the makeup she usually wore. Molly wasn’t sure if Liz was asleep, so she sat quietly on a chair next to the bed.

In the moments after Molly sat down and Liz finally spoke the silence was deafening, terrifying, panic inducing for Molly. What in the world is going on?

Liz didn’t open her eyes or unfurl herself from the fetal position she’d wrapped herself in. “Molly, do you think God forgives us for things we have done wrong? Really forgives us?”

Molly leaned forward in the chair, confused. Where was this going? “Yes, Liz, I do. I truly do but I’ll admit that sometimes I worry he won’t.” She tipped her head, her eyebrows furrowed. “Liz, what’s going on? What happened?”

Liz let out a long breath.

“I’m an idiot, Molly.”

“Liz, you’re not an —”

“I tried to kill myself, Mol.”

A cold chill cut through Molly and she closed her eyes, hot tears rushing into her eyes before she could stop them. She turned her face away, covering her mouth to choke back a sob. She swallowed hard and tried to regain her composure as she opened her eyes again.

She took a deep breath. “Liz. . . how? Why? What’s going on?”

Liz stared out the hospital window, expressionless. “I’m pregnant.”

Molly’s mind raced for answers. Liz was pregnant? When had this happened?

“How? I mean, I know how, I just mean —”

“You mean, who?”

“Well, yes. Who?”


Molly was baffled. “Gabe?”

Liz closed her eyes, a tear slipping down her cheek. “I fell for it again, Molly. I fell for him again. I believed him when he said he loved me and he wouldn’t hit me or cheat again.”

“Hit you? He was hitting you?”


“You never told me he was doing that.”

“I never told anyone.”

Molly looked at Liz in disbelief. “And you went back to him?

“For one night, yes.” Her stoic expression crumbled as she began to sob. “How could I have been so stupid?”

Molly leaned back against the chair, feeling as if she’d been hit in the chest with a two-ton weight. She struggled to wrap her mind around what Liz was saying.

“I drank a lot when I was with Gabe, Molly. Did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t kn—”

“There is so much you didn’t know.”

Molly’s eyebrows raised. Was she in some kind of alternate universe? This conversation was surreal. Had she been so wrapped up in her own world she hadn’t noticed the pain her friend was in? It was becoming more obvious by the minute that the answer was ‘yes.’

Liz closed her eyes and shook her head. “I wish I hadn’t called 911. I should have just kept those pills down and I wouldn’t have to be here anymore.”

Molly moved the chair between Liz and the window. “Liz. Please. Tell me what is going on.”

“I got drunk one night three months ago at a party Brittany Jennings convinced me to go to. I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol since I’d left Gabe. He was there. I don’t remember much, just him leading me upstairs at this house, someone’s house, his hands all over me. . . .”

“Liz, did he force you to sleep with him?”

Liz shook her head slowly. “No. I agreed to it. I remember that much at least. I was out of it, but I agreed to it and I thought I wanted it. It wasn’t until the next morning I realized what I’d done. I was so ashamed.”

Tears soaked Molly’s cheeks. She had given up on trying to hide her emotions. “I just don’t understand why you didn’t tell me.”

Liz’s voice faded to a whisper, as if she was too weak to even talk. “I didn’t want you to know how messed up I was. I didn’t want you to know how far I’d fallen. I’d let Gabe walk all over me and abuse me all those years, simply because I thought he would change — that I could change him. I moved in with him without being married to him and I was already embarrassed about that. I just couldn’t imagine telling you I had been stupid enough to get pregnant by him too. I was drinking so much when he and I were dating. I couldn’t think straight most days. Drinking, taking pills Gabe offered me, sometimes pushed me to take. It’s probably why I could never think straight long enough to get away from him.”

A sick ache clutched at Molly’s stomach. Liz had been drinking and depressed and she’d never even noticed. How could she have been so clueless and selfish?

“You must have hid the drinking well.”

“It was mostly on the weekends. The weekends when I told you I was working late or made up some excuse about having to do inventory at the store.”

“Oh, Liz, I’m so —”

“This isn’t who I thought I would turn into back when we were going to youth group together,” Liz said quickly, talking over Molly. “Back when we always said we’d save ourselves for marriage and never get drunk or do drugs. We were so naïve.”

Molly thought about how she had kept all of those promises so far and how sometimes it made her feel boring, but most of the time it made her feel proud for keeping her word to her younger self. Keeping those promises didn’t make her better than Liz, though, especially not in the sight of God. He loved both of them, no matter what Liz might think about herself and her worth right now.

“No one is perfect and you may not have kept the promises you made to yourself back then but it’s never too late to change.”

Molly motioned for Liz to move over and sat next to her friend on the bed. Liz slid over and leaned against Molly, crying against a crumpled tissue clutched in her hand. “The worst thing about all of this is that I was really falling for Matt, you know? I knew he was too good for me though. I didn’t deserve him.”

Liz broke down again. She tried to speak through the tears, stopped and started again. “I think I thought Gabe was the only one who would want me that way. That I wouldn’t ever be good enough for Matt so why even act like he would want me? And now. . .” she paused to sob into her hands that were now covering her face. “Now he definitely won’t want me. No one will want me. I’m a mess. I’m an alcoholic, an addict, and obviously a mental case who wasn’t strong enough to walk away from an abusive man. To top it all off, now I’m pregnant with that man’s baby.”

Molly gently pulled Liz’s hands from her face. “Liz, all this is lies. Lies you are telling yourself. Lies that the ruler of darkness is telling you. You know that. Your life might be a mess right now, but you are worthy of love. You have made mistakes but there is redemption and you will have that redemption. Do you hear me?”

Liz nodded weakly, burying her face in Molly’s shoulder.

“Have you told your parents about this?” Molly asked as she hugged her friend close. “Do they even know you’re here?”

“God, no.” Liz’s response was sharp as she pulled back and made a face. “Can you imagine me telling Frank and Marian about this? Frank would be here anointing me with oil and Marian would be using me as an example of who not to become at Bible study. They may just make me wear a sweater with the letter “s” for slut emblazoned on it when they do find out.”

Molly laughed softly. “Liz, they love you. They are not going to do that.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right.”

Molly handed her friend another tissue. “I just wish you had told me.”

She leaned back to look at Liz. “How is the baby? How far along are you? Or did this . . .”

Liz shook her head. “The heartbeat is good. The doctors don’t think the pills I took harmed it. I panicked after I took them and called an ambulance.  I’m guessing I’m about three months.”

“Are you telling me that you were three months pregnant and still kicking my butt at the gym every day.”

A small smile tugged at Liz’s mouth, then faded, replaced by tears and sobs.  

“I’m three months pregnant and I don’t know if I can do this, Molly.”

“I’ll help you however I can. You won’t be alone. We can get an apartment and raise the baby together.”

Liz laughed weakly. “What, like an old married couple?”

A slight smile tugged at Molly’s. “No. Like the friends we are. Though we do sometimes act like an old married couple.”

 Molly stood and pulled the blanket up around her friend’s shoulders.

“For now, I want you to rest until the doctors say you can go home.”

Liz’s sleepy gaze drifted out the window, over Molly’s shoulder.

“They want me to stay for a few days in the psych ward. The psych ward. How did I even get to this place in my life?”

Molly shrugged. “One mistake at a time, like any of us. You’re going to be fine, though. Maybe they’ll allow you to have outpatient care instead. But for now, I think it’s best you stay here and rest. Do you want me to call your parents for you?”

Liz looked back at Molly and shook her head.

“No. I’ll call them soon. This town is so small, I’d better before someone at the gas station or library tells them.”

“Do you want me to call Matt?”

Liz grimaced. “Oh gosh, no way. He’s going to run as far away from me as he can when he hears about this. That relationship is over. Sunk. I’m sure of it. I don’t know how I’m going to handle that right now. I mean, can you imagine? ‘Hey, Matt, so like you want to go on another date? Oh, and by the way, I’m carrying my abusive ex-boyfriend’s baby.’ Yeah. That conversation is so not going to happen.”

Molly couldn’t help but laugh at her friend’s sense of humor and how it came out even in the darkest of times.

“I wouldn’t put it to him that way, no. But at some point, you owe it to him to tell him what’s going on. You can’t control how he reacts but at least you will have done the right thing and told him. He cares for you, Liz. He’d want to know.”

Liz pulled her knees up against her chest under the covers, closing her eyes.

“I know. I’ll tell him. Later.”

A nurse walked into the room, pushing a cart. Molly knew Liz needed her sleep and took it as a sign to leave. Still, anxiety over leaving Liz alone was poking at her thoughts.

“Do you want me to stay with you a little longer?”

Liz shook her head, her eyes still closed. “No, that’s okay, I think I’m going to rest, but can you come back in the morning?”

The nurse checked the IV in Liz’s arm and then began to hook a blood pressure cuff on her upper arm. Molly stood in place, still feeling uncomfortable with leaving.

Liz opened one eye, glanced at the IV, then back at Molly.

“They’re watching me, here, Molly. It’s okay. And I chickened out and called the ambulance, remember? I regretted it as soon as I took those pills. I won’t try it again.”

Molly leaned over and hugged Liz. “Okay, but I’ll be back first thing in the morning. I’m a call away.”

“I know, Molly. Thank you. And listen, when you come back I want you to tell me all about how things are going with you and Alex.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Liz opened her eyes and grinned sleepily. “Please. I know something is going on between you and Alex and when you come back , I want you to bring chocolate and tell me all about it.”

“Liz, there is nothing going on between Alex and me.”

“But you want there to be.”

Molly looked at the nurse, who looked to be in her mid-40s, her dark brown hair cut shoulder length. The nurse shrugged and smiled. “I’ll check with the doctor about the chocolate. The story should be fine.”

“Don’t encourage her,” Molly responded with a laugh. “There isn’t any story to tell.”

Molly looked back at Liz, grateful to see her eyes closed, her body relaxed and her chest rising and falling in a rhythmic patter. She was breathing and alive, something Molly was eternally grateful for. Out in her truck Molly pressed her forehead against the steering wheel and let the tears fall for several moments before pulling out of the parking lot.

Driving in the dark, back toward the farm, she felt foolish for moping through life when she was blessed to have the life she did. Yes, it was stressful knowing that the farm and family business was struggling. Yes, she was anxious about feeling stagnant and lost. But she was alive, she had a family who loved her, good friends, and a God who wanted the best for her.

Then there was Alex. Where did he fit in? For now, she was placing him somewhere between family and friend, but closer to friend. A very good looking friend who she had daydreamed about kissing more than once.

Oh boy.

So, maybe friend wasn’t the category he belonged in, but for now, until she could figure out how he felt about her, that was the category he’d have to stay in.

Extra Fiction Thursday: Quarantined Chapter 2

I’ve been off Facebook for a few days and haven’t looked at the news but based on some of the blog posts I’m reading, the events going on in today’s world are hitting people hard and spiraling them into depression. Take a break from it all today – either reading this chapter from this novella I’m working on or simply walking away from media all together and pick up a book, take a walk, or start a hobby that gave you comfort before. We have to choose to walk away from the stress so I’m encourage you (and me) to choose to do that.

Matt Grant tapped the end button on the screen of his phone and laid the phone on the coffee table next to his laptop and paperwork. He rubbed his hand across his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling a tension headache pulsating in his temples.

He’d just got off the phone with his assistant press secretary, John Chambers. They’d drafted another statement for the media, answering accusations that Matt was still at work in his office in the capitol.

“Just make sure they know I’m at home, self-quarantining, just like my doctor told me to,” Matt had told John, more than a touch of annoyance in his voice.

“I’m making sure,” John said. “I’m assuring them all of us are safely locked away now. Just like the critics seem to think we should be, even though our preliminary tests are inconclusive. I doubt this will satisfy them, but we can try.”

With the statement to the press out of the way, Matt’s mind wandered back to his brother Liam, who he needed to call and check on. The doctor who had examined Liam had listed his diagnosis as “probable” for the virus, which was what had triggered this latest scandal in the first place. Matt was sure Liam would be fine but there was a small part of him that worried about his little brother developing symptoms of the virus that was sending others to ICUs across the country. Matt wasn’t only worried about Liam’s physical health though. He was also worried about his mental and emotional health.

Liam had told Matt months ago that his marriage was in shambles. Matt had barely listened, sure his brother and sister-in-law would work things out. He knew Liam still loved his Maddie, and Maddie still loved Liam.  He was sure of it. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be struggling so much with the idea of divorce and it would have been finalized months ago.

It couldn’t be easy being quarantined together during a pandemic with all the issues they had with each other, but Matt was glad they were. Maybe it would give them a chance to work out their issues and save what had been a great union at one time. As it was, their divorce proceedings had been delayed because of the pandemic, which Matt saw as a way for them to buy more time and truly be sure the divorce was what they wanted.

What made Matt uncomfortable wasn’t only that he could hear pain mixed with longing in his brother’s voice when they had talked about the divorce a couple of weeks ago. It was also that he wondered, worried even, that maybe his marriage was bleeding out in the same way his younger brother’s had and he had been too wrapped up in himself to realize it.

Matt and Cassie hadn’t had a lot of time alone lately. They actually had barely even had time to talk.

Their life had been a runaway train since the election six years ago and now it was picking up speed again as their re-election campaign was underway. Really, though, the train had never actually slowed down.

 In Washington he faced daily drama and conflict whether he wanted it or not. Becoming the head of the Committee of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs last year hadn’t helped slow things down any either.

Then there was this crazy never-before-seen virus that seemed to come out of nowhere a few weeks ago and now had him at home with his family, waiting to see if he developed any symptoms after being exposed to it more than a week ago. He was convinced if he had the virus he would have developed symptoms by now, but he had stayed home to make sure things looked good to the press and his constituents. Making sure things “looked good and right” to others seemed to be 90 percent of his job anymore, leaving little room for him to actually do good and right and accomplish the things he’d been elected to do.

All the drama in Congress left him little time to focus on Cassie or the kids and he regretted that. He regretted it even more when his brother’s march toward divorce had become a growing reality. He’d never pictured Liam and Maddie divorced. They were the perfect couple. They’d weathered some hard storms, but Matt had been sure the challenges would bring them closer together. In fact, he thought it had but now he realized he’d been too wrapped up in the campaign and job to notice how much they’d actually drifted apart.

Sure, Liam, as his press secretary, spent many late nights working with him, but he imagined when he went home, he and Maddie made up for lost time. Instead Matt had recently learned that Liam had been working at home as well, sleeping in his office, leaving Maddie alone most of the time, writing her romance novels and reaching for companionship on social media.

Matt and Liam’s parents had been the perfect example of a stable, loving marriage. Married 54 years, Tom and Phyllis Grant made it clear each day how much they loved each other. Sure, they had argued, even in front of their children, but those arguments had been resolved usually before the sun had gone down and with a fair amount of ‘making up’. Matt and Liam, and his sister Lana had been grateful the majority of that making up had gone on behind closed doors.

Standing from the couch to stretch, Matt looked out the window at his own three children playing ball in the backyard and felt a twinge of guilt. Getting pregnant and carrying three babies to term had been easy for him and Cassie. They’d never had to face the heartbreak of not being able to get pregnant or of a miscarriage. Matt felt like he’d taken being able to become a father so easily for granted.

He looked around his living room, well-decorated with expensive furniture and commissioned paintings, and thought about how much of his life he had taken for granted, especially lately. He’d taken for granted the newer model car he drove, the highly-rated bed he slept on, the full refrigerator, and even fuller bank account.

He rubbed his hand along his chin and turned toward the kitchen where Cassie was making a late lunch for him and the kids. Her dark brown hair fell to her waist in a tight braid, the bottom of it grazing the top of the waistband of a pair of red workout shorts. Her favorite T-shirt, featuring Johnny Cash wearing a cowboy hat, fit her medium build well, hugging all the areas it should, especially for the benefit of her husband admiring the view that he hadn’t admired for a long time.

He watched her stirring the taco meat in the skillet and his gaze traveled down her legs and back up again, thinking about the first time they’d met in an English lecture at college.


He’d leaned over the desk to try to get her attention, but she was intently focused on the professor. He had tried again.


She glared over her shoulder at him.

“Do you have an extra pen?” he whispered.

She rolled her eyes, ignored him, tapping the end of her own pen against her cheek gently as she kept her eyes focused forward.

“It’s just,” he leaned a little closer so he didn’t interrupt the other students. “I left my pen back in my dorm room and I want to make sure I’m taking notes.”

He was glad he had leaned a little closer. She smelled amazing. What was that perfume? He had no idea but it was intoxicating. Maybe it was her shampoo. The fluorescent light from the lecture hall was reflecting off her luxurious black strands of hair and he pondered what it would feel like to reach out and touch it. But he didn’t reach out and touch it. That would be weird. Even a 19-year old college freshman like himself knew that.

A year later, though, he was touching that soft dark hair while he kissed Cassie for the first time outside her dorm after their third date. And over the years he’d sank his hands in that hair in moments of tenderness and moments of passion. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he watched his wife and thought about a few of those moments, including that time in the back of his new car after he’d landed that job at the law firm in Detroit.

He could deny it. It wasn’t only the material things of his life that he had taken for granted. He had also been taking Cassie for granted. For far too long.


Cassie Grant turned from where she was cooking lunch for her husband and children and watched her husband pace back and forth in the living room.

She knew he was worried about the situation with the virus, the way his office had been thrown into the middle of an unexpected scandal. She was sure he was also worried about whether he’d develop symptoms of the virus, pass it on to the children, and if his other staff members would be infected, now that it looked like Liam’s test for it would be positive. Too little was known about how the virus affected the majority of people, although early reports showed that most cases were mild.

And then there was Liam and Maddie’s marriage which was about to end. Matt and his brother had been raised by parents who had been married 54 years. The brothers and their sister weren’t a product of divorce and Cassie wondered if the prospect of Liam’s marriage ending was weighing on Matt’s mind along with the virus.

Cassie wasn’t sure what her husband was thinking anymore, though, because Matt hadn’t been talking to her much lately. He’d been busy at the office, putting out fires, which seemed to pop up several times throughout the day, thanks to a 24/7 news cycle that never let up.

She couldn’t deny that she missed seeing her husband. She missed their date nights and family movie nights and him just being around the house when she needed him. But she knew that he was doing what he thought was right to try to make a difference for the people who elected him.

Turning the burner down she leaned back against the counter and watched Matt turn and look out the window where their children were playing. Her gaze fell on the back of his head, on his soft brown hair and she remembered with a soft laugh that day in college when they’d been studying in a private room on the first floor of the university library. The love seat they were sitting on was soft, plush, light maroon.

Papers and books were spread out in front of them and Matt was debating the importance of some moment in history to the future of something or other. Cassie couldn’t remember now and hadn’t cared then. She’d tuned him out long ago. Instead she had been watching him amazed at how impassioned he was about the topic at hand. She had been staring at the muscles in his jaw and how they moved as he spoke, at his long fingers connected to that manly hand, at a strand of hair that had fallen across his forehead that she desperately wanted to push to the side. And she’d definitely been watching his mouth. His lips looked amazingly kissable.

Cassie was sick of listening to him quite frankly.

“Cassie, don’t you see that —”

Cassie leaned forward and pressed her mouth to Matt’s, cutting his sentence short, touching the side of his face gently. She pulled back and looked at him, her mouth still inches from his. He had finally fallen silent. At least for a few seconds.

“Oh. Um. Okay. Was I talking too —”

“Just shut up, Matt.”

She caught his mouth with hers again, sinking her hands into his hair, moving closer to him at the same time he moved closer to her.

He slid his arm around her and held her to him gently as the kiss continued.

“So, I guess you weren’t only interested in me as a study partner,” he said breathlessly a few moments later.

“Is that the only way you were interested in me?” she asked, her fingers still in his hair, playing with it.

A grin tugged at one corner of his mouth. “What do you think Cassie Henderson?”

She answered with another kiss, and they leaned back against the seat as they kissed, forgetting they were in a study room in the library.

Three years later they were married, a year later their first, a boy, was born. That had been 15 years ago and now they had three children, an expensive home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Matt was a U.S. Senator while she stayed home with the children, her career as a social worker long behind her and his career as an attorney behind him, for the time being at least.

Sure, some of that initial passion of their relationship was gone, replaced with the everyday and the mundane, but Cassie recognized this as a season – a season during which marriage became more about comfortable moments and less about desire. It wasn’t that she didn’t have desire for Matt; it was just that they never seemed to have time for it anymore.

She startled out of her thoughts, smelling something burning.

“Oh no!”

She rushed to the stove and turned it down, smoke billowing from the skillet where she’d been browning meat for tacos. She moved the skillet to another burner and groaned. It looked like they’d be having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch today.

The blaring of the smoke alarm only made the humiliation that much worse.

Matt rushed into the kitchen, waving a newspaper at the smoke. “Whoa there! Let’s not add burned down house to our list of bizarre occurrences for the month.”

“Sorry. I guess I got distracted.”

Matt pulled the battery from the fire alarm. “No big deal, right? It might can be salvaged.”

He grimaced at the charged edges of the meat in the pan. “Or maybe the dog would like a treat.”

Cassie sighed. “I’m not sure even Barney should eat that.  I’ll just make the kids some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You want one?”

“You know what, yeah. I haven’t one of those in years. Crustless?”

Cassie shook her head. “What are you, six?”

“Sentimental reasons,” Matt said with a wink. “My mom used to make them that way for me.”

Cassie pulled the bread out of the bread box and Matt slid the peanut butter and jelly across the counter.

“So, being quarantined with me has to be pretty boring for you, huh?” he asked.

“Not really,” she said with a smile, spreading peanut butter on slices of bread. “But it is weird seeing you here this time of day or, well, much at all.”

Matt winced softly. “Ouch.”

“Well, it’s not your fault. You’re busy.”

He couldn’t read her tone of voice but sadly it seemed more apathetic, more along the line of “that’s just the way it is” than anything else.

Matt leaned back against the counter, sliding his hands in his dress pants pockets. He looked at his dress shoes, chewing on his bottom lip, thinking. First, he thought about how absent he’d been in his family’s life. Then he thought about how he was quarantined at home but for some reason he was still wearing dress shoes, a dress shirt and tie, as if he was on his way to a meeting or a senate hearing.  He had apparently forgotten how to relax, unwind, and kick back.

He cleared his throat. “I guess I can go to change into something more comfortable. It doesn’t look like I’ll be doing anything business related for a few days anyhow.”

When he returned wearing a pair of sweatpants and a Garth Brooks t-shirt the children were already around the table, munching on sandwiches and drinking chocolate milk.

“Daddy! Sit next to me!” his youngest, Lauren, called, tapping the back of the chair next to her.

“Okay. I can do that.”

His son Tyler eyed him over his glass of chocolate milk as he drank from it. At the age of 13 he waffled between being bored and annoyed most of the time.

“It’s weird seeing you here,” Tyler said bluntly as Matt sat down.

Matt looked into his son’s bright blue eyes, noticing the acne starting to form along the top of his forehead near his closely cropped hairline. He wasn’t sure how to take the comment. Did Tyler mean “good weird” or “bad weird”? Should he ask? Did he even want to know?

Luckily, he didn’t have to decipher his son’s meaning for long.

“But it’s a good weird, right?” Cassie asked, as if she could read Matt’s mind, and after 15-years of marriage, she probably could.

Tyler grinned. “Yeah. It’s a good weird. Just weird.”

Gracie, his middle daughter, smiled sweetly at Matt and then giggled around a mouthful of sandwich.

“I like you being here, Daddy.”

Matt smiled back at her, reaching across the table to cover her hand with his. “I like it too, sweetie. Maybe something good will come out of all of this, huh? At least you will all see me a little more often.”

His gaze focused on Cassie and he saw she was watching him, but again he was having a hard time reading her expression. Was she happy they’d all be spending more time together? Or was the extra time with him simply a reminder for her how much she didn’t need him around anymore?

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 10

The idea for this book and scenes from it have been swirling in my mind and on the page for probably about a year now. I know a lot of what I share on my blog is going to be edited, tightened, maybe even rewritten. There are two scenes, so far, that I have two different versions written for and I haven’t yet decided which version I’m going to choose to propel the story forward.

The one scene is pivotal for one of my characters and while I’ve been considering changing my initial idea for how her story would play out, I don’t think I’m going to be able to and still move her story where I want it to go in a future book of the series.

I’m cringing at what needs to happen for this character’s story to move forward, but there is no way around it. It has to happen and I’m hoping it comes out the way I want it to.

This writing thing is both a blessing and a curse for an over thinker. I find myself thinking about my characters way more than I should. Every time I share a chapter on here I know that I’ll be heavily editing each chapter in the future and maybe even changing the course of my character’s lives because I change my mind so often. Muhahaha…what power!

Anyhow, enjoy Chapter 10. Catch up with the rest of the story HERE. Find links to the rest of my fiction at the top of the blog.

The sun was high in the sky when Molly carried her lunch to the picnic table her dad had set up outside the barn a few years ago. Her back and legs ached from cleaning out the cow stalls and she knew she’d need a break before she headed to the farm store for her afternoon shift.

She straddled one of the benches and watched Alex sit down across from her, pulling a sub, chips and two sodas from a paper bag.

“Brought your own lunch this time, huh?” she asked.

Alex shrugged. “Nah. Stole Jason’s.”

“Really?” Molly watched him bite into the sub.

He grinned as he chewed. “No. I actually picked up lunch for me and Jason yesterday at Ivy’s Deli. You think I’d come between your brother and a meal? No way. I learned my lesson the hard way in college.”

He pushed a soda toward her. “I’ve got an extra. Want one?”

Molly had promised Liz the night before that she’d cut back on sodas to try to start eating better. She shook her head. “Thanks. I’ll stick to water with lemon.”

She placed her container with a salad with chicken, light Italian dressing and half of an avocado on the table.

Alex scrunched his nose up in disgust. “You’ve got to stop hanging around Liz. All her health food weirdness is rubbing off on you.”

Molly laughed. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It won’t hurt me to eat a little healthier. Maybe I can even get you to do it.”

Alex talked around a mouthful of chips. “Nope. Not gonna happen, lady.”

Molly watched her dad walking the fence line across the field as she sipped her water.

Alex followed her gaze. He knew Molly was worried about how hard Robert had been working lately. He also knew she didn’t know about the loan payment that was late and he wasn’t about to tell her. Robert and Walt had given him and Jason the heads up a couple of weeks ago, assuring them that the women in the family would be told as soon as the brothers met with the loan officer. Alex knew Molly would be even more worried if she knew about the loan. He would let Robert tell her and he would when the time was right.

He took the opportunity when she didn’t know he was looking at her to study her. He studied her short nose and her reddish-brown hair that she’d pulled back in a ponytail, the curl that had fallen out and was curving around her ear. He studied her eyes, green with flecks of gold and her lips, perfectly kissable if he could ever bring himself to make that move.

He wondered what she would say if she knew he’d heard the conversation between her and Liz; how she didn’t think she was his type and how she totally was his type. He knew he was eventually going to have to let her know how much his type she was.

“Worried about your dad?” he asked.

“Yeah. He works too hard.”

“He does,” Alex shrugged. “but I don’t think he’d know what to do if he wasn’t working. At least he manages to spend time with you and your brother while he works. My dad’s business was his only focus during my childhood and it still is.”

He laughed softly. “Well, that and his latest mistress.”

Molly and Alex had talked about his dad before and every time Molly felt a twinge of sadness for him. She knew his jokes about his dad were a cover for the hurt still there. She moved her gaze from her dad to look at Alex, tilting her head, thinking what to say next. She stabbed a chunk of lettuce with her fork and decided to take a chance on saying something she knew might alienate him.

“You know, Alex, God can be a father to the fatherless.”

Alex licked mustard off his thumb and looked at Molly through narrowed eyes, a small smile tugging at his mouth. “Yeah? How is that possible when I can’t even see God. Is he going to throw the celestial ball around with me in the clouds or something?”

Molly laughed. “No, but we can talk to God when we’re feeling down or confused or disappointed in someone who should have been there for us.”

“Hmmmm…yeah. I guess I’m not really into that whole talking to someone I can’t see thing.”

Molly wasn’t deterred. “You can’t see the wind, but you can see the affects of the wind. You can see the wind blowing those tree limbs over there so is the wind real?”

Alex shook his head, laughing softly. “Molly Tanner, you like to screw with people’s minds, don’t you?”

“No. I’m just saying that sometimes we need to think about God differently. Maybe he isn’t just someone up there in the clouds, maybe he’s all around us and affecting our lives more than we think. I don’t know, Alex. I don’t have this all figured out either. I have doubts and —”

“You? You have doubts?”

“Yeah, of course. I’m not perfect. I’m not some angel.”

“No? Now I’m interested,” a broad grin crossed his face as he sat the soda on the table. “Tell me, Molly Tanner, what have you done that would prove to me that you’re no angel.”

Molly cleared her throat and pulled her eyes from his intense gaze, his sly smile. Her cheeks grew warm as he watched her.

“I’ve made mistakes. I’ve had thoughts I shouldn’t have.” Like right now. About how good you look in those jeans and how amazing it would probably be to kiss that mouth. “I’ve said bad things about people. This morning I even cursed when I pinched my finger in the barn door.”

“What did you say? ‘Oh shoot’? ‘My lands’?” Alex laughed.

“Actually, no, it was worse,” Molly answered with a smile of her own. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

“Compared to me, Molly, you are an angel.”

“You’re not so bad that God can’t forgive you and that he can’t still love you. I believe he does. He loves us both, despite our failures and our shortcomings and the ways we think we don’t measure up to his standards.”

Alex sucked down the rest of his soda and dragged the back of his hand across his mouth. “It’s a nice thought, Molly-belle but I don’t know if I buy it. Life seems pretty random and unplanned to me and I like it that way. I don’t like the idea of being a puppet for some higher being in the sky.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “We’re not his puppets. We’re his children and he wants the best for us.”

Alex swung his leg over the picnic table bench and stood up. “OK, little lady. Enough church for today. I’ve got some work to finish up in the barn. See you there?”

Molly drank more of her water. “Not today. I have the afternoon shift at the store and then I told Ginny Jefferies I’d go to an art class with her.”

“Okay. Well, enjoy your art class.”

Alex shook his head when he reached his truck, laughing softly to himself. How had he fallen for a girl like Molly? A girl so pristine and proper in her thoughts she made Mother Theresa look mean. Sure, she claimed she had inappropriate thoughts, but he highly doubted it. Someone who talked and thought that much about a mystical being in the sky didn’t have time for thoughts that weren’t in line with what her parents had taught her.

He tossed what remained of his lunch in his truck and headed toward the barn, still pondering what inappropriate thoughts Molly Tanner might have had.


Ned stared at Franny from a faded black and white photograph. The photograph didn’t have to be in color for her to remember his bright green eyes or sandy blond hair he swept off to one side. And how handsome he had looked in his uniform that day he’d signed up for the Army. She’d never imagined that a couple of years later that uniform would take him on a ship, far away from her, to war. But when he came back, he’d dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. She couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.

She remembered the tender kisses, the soft caresses, oh, yes, she did. Her children and grandchildren probably thought she was too old to remember what it felt like to be in love, to be kissed for the first time by the man you were in love with, but she wasn’t. She remembered it all like it was yesterday.

There was a chill in the air that night and she’d worn her favorite white sweater with the pink flowers for their walk around the town square. He’d been so shy, finally reaching over and taking her hand in his as they circled the gazebo for the third time. He’d stopped in front of the gazebo, under the street lamp, turned toward her and cupped her face in his hands. Her heart had been pounding and when his mouth covered her’s she felt like her insides evaporated into a fine mist. She was floating on air.

He smiled and laughed sheepishly when he pulled back, looking down at her.

“I can’t believe it took me so long to kiss you,” he’d whispered.

She couldn’t believe it hadn’t taken him so long either.

She set the picture back on the top of her dresser, wiping a tear from her cheek. It all seemed like yesterday, but it hadn’t been yesterday. It had been 56 years ago and now here she was, alone in this house, without the man who had made it a home for her.

He’d come home from the war, married her and she’d moved to the farm to become a farmer’s wife. At first, they had lived with his parents and then a new house had been built up the road. It was a tough few years, that’s for sure. Walter was born first, then Hannah, then Robert, back-to-back. Money had been tight, but Ned had worked hard with his father to keep the farm going. Producing the best milk in the region was Ned’s goal and he met that goal year after year until the early 60s when a test on the milk came back saying their milk was unsafe.

Ned was beside himself with worry and sank into a deep depression. It was the first time Franny couldn’t seem to soothe him and not even prayer seemed to help. For two weeks Ned paced and wrung his hands. His milk had to be tested again and until then their milk couldn’t be sold. They’d sold vegetables from the fields at a roadside booth to try to make ends meet until the milk was tested again.

“Sorry, Mr. Tanner,” the inspector had said after the second test, stretching his hand out. “It looks like our test was wrong last time. There’s not a thing wrong with your supply. I hope this hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience.”

Franny had thought Ned might bite clear through his tongue and bottom lip the way he clenched his jaw and pressed his lips together. She knew he was literally biting his tongue.

“Not at all,” he said finally, his grip tight on the inspector’s hand.

Things had run smoother after that, but of course there were always the droughts, the flooding, the occasional years when bugs or frost destroyed entire crops or one disease or another spread through the herd. Still, no matter what life through at them, Ned and Franny had been in it together.

Them and God.

A cord of three strands was not easily broken and they had not been broken, despite it all. That was until Ned’s diagnosis when Franny had felt more broken than she’d ever felt before. She’d overcome two miscarriages, the loss of her parents and one brother, but somehow, she felt like she might never overcome the loss of Ned.

She sighed, catching sight of her Bible on the bedside table. It had a thick layer of dust on it and she knew she should wipe it off and open it, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She was mad at God. Plain and simple. She couldn’t deny it to herself or anyone else, and she knew God already knew. She was mad at him for taking Ned from her when they’d had so many plans together.

Maybe that’s why she’d been so annoyed with the visit by the pastor. There he stood representing the naivety of the Church as a whole. Millions believing what she now struggled to believe — that God was for her and not against her; that he wanted to prosper her and not harm her. Hadn’t the loss of Ned harmed her? What greater purpose had it served to pull him from the earth when he’d finally had the time to relax and enjoy life; to enjoy life with her?

She hadn’t set foot in the church since the day of Ned’s funeral. She couldn’t even bring herself to attend the retirement gathering for Pastor Larson who had officiated not only Ned’s funeral but all three of her children’s weddings. He’d pastored Calvary Church for 45 years and counseled Franny more times than she could even remember. But she couldn’t bring herself to stand under the roof of a building built as God’s house. She didn’t want God to have the chance to even try to talk to her. While her Christian upbringing had taught her that he could talk to her whenever and wherever he wanted, she felt walking herself right into the lion’s den might give him even more opportunity to try to reach her again, when she didn’t want to be reached.

And then there were all those sad looking parishioners waiting for her there. All those people looking at her in pity, treating her like she wasn’t just plain old Franny anymore.

She scoffed, flicking a dead fly off the window sill. She guessed in some ways she wasn’t the same Franny anymore, the more she thought about it. She had definitely changed. Death did that to a person. She was a widow now. Her heart was broken.

Worst of all, she’d lost a piece of herself and maybe even all of who she used to be, and she had no idea how to find herself again.

She hated that she’d taken her anger with God out on young Pastor Fields. He didn’t deserve it. He’d only been trying to reach out, to offer her comfort in her time of need. Maybe she would find a way to apologize to him. Hopefully at the bake sale. If she could bring herself to go and face all the sad eyes and pushed out bottom lips, the tilting heads and the voices that spoke to her as if she was child.

As if she’d lost all her facilities simply because she’d lost her husband.

 “Oh, Mrs. Tanner, so good to see you. How are you, hon’?”

“Let me do that for you, Mrs. Tanner.”

Heads cocked to one side with pity-filled expressions as they said things like, “Ned was a good man.” Or, “We sure do miss him.” Or, “It must be lonely up there in that house with Ned gone.”

She knew they all meant well, but she could only smile and nod and thank them so often before she wanted to scream and run away. Even if her old legs would let her run away, she knew her eyesight wouldn’t. She was having more and more trouble seeing. She was running into the corners of tables, tripping over shoes she’d forgot to put on the shoe rack, losing her glasses and maybe even her mind. Wouldn’t that just be her luck? Losing her husband, her eyesight, and her mental facilities in less than two years.

Lately it seemed that if she didn’t have bad luck, she wouldn’t have any luck at all.

Fiction Thursday: Fully Alive, Chapter 5

This is a continuing fiction story.

If you would like to read the other parts of Fully Alive, please click HERE.

If you would like to read other fiction by me, please see my short story Quarantined, here on the blog, my book A New Beginning on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and my continuing story The Farmer’s Daughter here on the blog.

“What do you think you’ll do, Yeshua? Save a girl who is already dead?”

The men laughed.

“What a fool!”

“Who does he think he is?”

“Oh, don’t you remember? He is the son of God.”

More laughter.

“If you hadn’t stopped to talk to that unclean woman, maybe she’d still be alive.”

“Go, we don’t need you here! She’s gone!”

“Clear this house so only your family is here.”

Jairus woke with a start. His memories of that day lingered in his mind as the fog of sleep faded.

It had been two years since Josefa had been raised from the dead. There were some parts of the story he wondered if he had imagined, yet he heard the voices in his dreams each night, seconds before he drifted off to sleep. Josefa often told him the same happened to her.

She wasn’t sure if her memories were dreams or her dreams were memories. She often asked Jairus about the day and what he remembered.

Sometimes Jairus answered, other times he waved her away, told her to go outside and play with her friends, be a child, enjoy life. There was only so many times he could talk about it, still unsure of what had happened and what he should believe.

He thought about the day at the temple. The day the man had reached up, asked Yeshua to heal his hand. Jairus could feel the anger coming off the other synagogue leaders, rabbis, and teachers.

“He would not dare to try his antics on Shabbat,” Rabbi Avigdor whispered bitterly, his face was twisted in disgust.

When Yeshua had told the man to step forward a hush settled over the leaders in the temple. Yeshua turned and looked at each man, as if searching for just one there who might have compassion on the man.

“You know healing is forbidden on Shabbat,” one of the leaders said curtly, as if to answer his gaze.

“Is it lawful on Shabbat to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?”

The leaders pulled their gaze from Yeshua’s and looked at the stone floor, their sandals, anywhere but at the man they had allowed to speak within their walls and now seemed to be challenging them. They fell silent, unwilling to answer him.

Jairus could only watch in surprise. He saw anger mixed with sadness flicker in Yeshua’ eyes before Yeshua turned away from the other leaders to face the man.

“Stretch out your hand,” Yeshua said firmly.

Jairus could tell it pained the man to reveal the withered hand as he lifted it toward Yeshua.

 Yeshua laid his hand over the man’s and when he withdrew it, the marks that had been there were gone. A murmur of shock rippled throughout the crowd of men who had been watching.

“Blasphemy!” Avigdor spat, his body visibly trembling with anger.

“I refuse to stand here and watch this man mock our laws and our traditions. Levi, Micha, Moshe, come with me.”

 Jairus pondered in amazement at the man flexing his fingers, staring at his hand in shock and wonder.

“My hand!” the man’s face was wet with tears. He took Yeshua’ hand and kissed it. “Thank you. Thank you.”

“Jairus!” Avigdor shouted for him from the doorway.

Jairus looked away from Yeshua and the man as Avigdor jerk his head toward the front steps.

He followed the rabbi into the bright sunlight and heat of the day.

“Jairus, tell me you don’t believe the blasphemy of this man?” Avigdor snapped at him.

Rabbi Levi didn’t wait for Jairus to answer. He was incredulous. “Must we again listen to another self-proclaimed messiah?”

“We will not. But too many people – they are already following him,” Avigdor said sharply. “We can not let his man lead our people out of the will of God.”

Levi shook his head and put his hand behind his back.

“But what can we do? How can we stop him?”

Jairus stood outside of the group, tugging at his beard.

“I think we should wait – see what else he says. He may stumble eventually,” he offered finally.

“Wait for what? For him to lead a revolt against us or even worse cause more issues with the Romans?” Avigdor growled. “Jairus, don’t be foolish –“

“Maybe he’s right,” Rabbi Micha took his turn to speak, holding his hand up as if to pause their racing thoughts. “The people will eventually see that this Yeshua isn’t who they think he is. They’ll eventually see he brings them empty promises. If we leave him alone he will eventually  stumble and make a fool of himself.”

“He already speaks blasphemy. He already mocks our ways,” Avigdor snapped. “What more should we wait for?”

Rabbi Levi put his hand gently on Avigdor’s shoulder. “Shabbat is almost over. Let us try to calm ourselves and pray. We won’t help matters yelling and screaming when we are so fired up. We will return to this topic after Shabbat, when we’ve had time to clear our heads.”

Levi was often the voice of reason and the one who could calm Avigdor, but this was one time Jairus wasn’t sure it would work.

Avigdor shook his head, looked at the ground for a moment and then looked at Levi.

“You are right, Levi. I will bring this up again after Sabbath,” he said, still with an edge to his voice, but now calmer than before. “But I can not promise you my opinion will not be the same.”

Jairus followed behind the men then paused and looked back at the door of the synagogue. Yeshua and the man he had healed were walking through the doorway.

“Rabbi, how can I ever thank you?” the man was asking, tears streaking his cheeks.

Yeshua stopped walking and turned toward the man.

“Honor your God each day. Have no other gods before him. Love others as you love yourself.”

The man kissed Yeshua’ hand, which was clasped in his own.

“I will do my best,” he told Yeshua.

“That is all God asks of you,” Yeshua said softly, a smile tilting his mouth upward.

He turned and as his followers came around him they all walked together into the crowd, which swallowed Yeshua from Jairus’ view.

“Josefa! Can you come to the stream to play?”

Her friend Caleb peered at her through the curtain of her sleeping quarters window.

 She rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

“After chores, yes.”

The sun was high the sky when Josefa finally took off her sandals and placed her feet in the stream near the olive trees. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the cool water against her skin.

Caleb leaned close to her and whispered in her ear. “I heard another story about demons and Yeshua’ followers.”

“Caleb. Stop that. There is no such thing as demons.”

“There totally is! They said Yeshua’ follower named Matthew spoke to the man and said there was a demon in him. The man who told me said the man with the demon spoke funny and fell to the ground.”

“Like this!” Caleb fell on the ground and his face twisted up while he jerked around with his arms against his chest, flailing back and forth.

He jumped up and stuck his tongue out at Josefa and shook his head back and forth vigorously

Josefa put her hands up as if to push Caleb away from her as he continued to distort his face, bursting into laughter.

“Then the man yelled back at Matthew and told him he lived there now and he wasn’t leaving, but Matthew said ‘You have no place here, demon and in the name of the most high God I command you to leave.’”

Caleb pointed at an imaginary man and made a stern face to imitate Matthew.

“In the name of the —” He stepped closer to Josefa as he continued to point. He lifted his chin and looked sternly at her down his nose. “The most high Gawd! Be goooone!”

Josefa put her hand over her mouth and giggled until the sound of footsteps startled them both.

Caleb’s older brother, Enoch, scowled down at them.

“Who do these men think they are?” he snapped. Acting as if they have authority to mess with the possessed?”

Enoch knelt next to the stream to fill his wineskin, shaking his  head.

“No one asked you, Enoch,” Caleb said, rolling his eyes.

Enock snorted. “These are the words of children. Stories. That’s all they are. Only a baby like you would believe them.”

Caleb stood, hands clenched into fists. “That’s not true! I heard them talking about it in the market. That man named Matthew called a demon out.”

Caleb made a weird face again and staggered toward Enoch. “’I am a servant of the devil!’ That’s what the man said.”

Enoch stepped away from his brother, turned his back to him and tied his bag closed.

“And, besides, Yeshua raised Josefa from the dead!” Caleb’s voice was loud and defiant.

Josefa’s cheeks flushed red.

“Caleb . . .”

“What?” Caleb said. “He did! You should tell more people! They should know the truth about Yeshua and his followers and who they really are.”

“You speak foolishness, Caleb,” Enoch said.

Enoch turned toward Josefa and she caught his gaze, his deep green eyes watching her. The palms of her hands were warm, moist and her heart pounded hard and fast in her chest.

Enoch smirked and stepped toward her. “Is this true, Josefa? Is it true what people are saying? Tell me, Josefa, daughter of Jairus, what did Yeshua really do?”

Her heart pounding in her ears almost drowned out his mocking words.

She kept her eyes down, looking at the olive branch in her hand. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Why? Because it’s a lie, right? What your family said happened is a lie isn’t it?”

Josefa turned to look at Enoch, her face warm.

“He asked us not to speak of it —”

Enoch laughed. “Of course, he did.” His smile faded, he stepped toward her and towered above her. “Because nothing happened.”

Caleb was furious. “They were already holding a time of mourning for her, Enoch! You don’t know! You were out with the sheep. But it’s true! I was there! I was crying!”

Enoch shook his head and tied his wine skin to his belt and reached for his staff.

“She was probably just asleep. You cry over everything. You’re still a boy.”

“She wasn’t breathing. I saw her! I touched her!”

Josefa looked at Caleb. She hadn’t known he’d been with her.

“You were there?” she asked softly.

Caleb’s cheeks were red now.

“Yes. I came because I did not want to believe it. I didn’t want to believe you were gone. I was there when Yeshua came with those men and then he told us all to leave.”

Enoch’s haughty laugh interrupted their exchange.

“Of course, Yeshua wanted everyone to leave. So, he could pretend Josefa was really dead.” He ruffled Caleb’s hair, but Caleb slapped his hand way. “Okay, little one, I’m leaving you and your friend to your childish tales. Take care of mama while Joseph and I are gone to find the lost sheep.”

He paused and looked at Josefa, half turned away from her.

“Take care, Josefa. I don’t believe you were truly dead, but I am glad you are still alive.”

“Thank you, Enoch.”

Her voice softened to a whisper. “But I was dead.”

The sound of a passing cart drowned out her voice.

Enoch walked around the children and called out to his older brother.

“Joseph wait for me!”

“Why didn’t you tell him?” Caleb asked as Enoch and Joseph disappeared down the road.

“I don’t know. Yeshua said to tell no one. I wasn’t sure —”

“But so many already know, Josefa. They know the truth about what happened to you. If it was me, I wouldn’t be ashamed. I’d be excited to let everyone know that I had been dead but now was alive.”

Josefa flicked at the water with her fingers and stared at the pools rolling into each other.

“But what if no one believes me?” she asked.

“But what if some do?” Caleb countered.

Creatively Thinking: Describing a character’s appearance is a common conundrum of fiction writing

I always told myself stories in my head when I was growing up so when I decided last year to write fiction, I was sure it would be an easy task for me.

Well, slow your roll, Lisa (as an old boss of mine used to say). Writing fiction is not as easy as you think. In fact, writing fiction is more like yanking all the hairs of my head out one by one, or sentence by sentence, some days. It’s often tedious and a breeding ground of discontent for over thinkers like me. While many writers just toss what they think onto the page and keep going, I toss it there and then I look at it and agonize over the fact I don’t know a lot of big words, I’m not as smart as other people and I don’t have as much life experience as some.

I’m also discovering I’m horrible at descriptions. Especially when it comes to the appearance of a person. I’m reading a book by Becky Wade and she’s a master at it. Take for example, this description of one of her main characters in Sweet on You: “His pale skin struck a distinct contrast with his hair, which verged on black. His jaw, cheekbones, and nose were all sharply defined. Straight eyebrows. Thick eyelashes. Zander had a romantic, slightly heartbreaking, usually serious face. He could pass as either a nineteeth-century poet or one of those harshly handsome vampires from Twilight.”

You can clearly picture him, right? Right! (Mention of Twilight aside, that was a good description.) When I try to describe a character, I draw a blank. I simply describe their hair and eye color and maybe their build. I don’t draw comparisons to who they look like to others or how a facial feature could be compared to a piece of food or a particular flower.

In some ways I prefer vague character descriptions because then I, as the reader, can make up own mind about what the character looks like. Jan Karon, author of The Mitford series, says she purposely doesn’t describe her characters’ appearances because she likes her readers to use their own imagination and conjure up their own physical image of each character. She draws her approach to character descriptions on the days of old radio shows when she listened and created an image of the show characters in her mind.

I’m working on improving my character and scene descriptions in my next book but I don’t want to go too overboard. We were discussing the subject of overly detailed descriptions in books in an online writing forum I am a part of and several writers and readers agreed that if the descriptions become too detailed they skip right over those paragraphs. One person said they found long descriptions boring.

So what is a writer to do? I suppose a writer has to find a happy medium and offer just enough description of a character or place to flush them out but not so much as to bore the reader. So, yeah, that should be easy to do. Right?

As my mom would say, with her hand pressed firmly against her forehead, “Lord, give me strength!”

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 5

Yesterday I gave you a sneak peek of today’s chapter of The Farmer’s Daughter, but as I was getting the post ready for today, I realized that sneak peek was actually for Saturday’s special fiction post. Whoops! Well, anyhow, it’s been one of those weeks!
To catch up on The Farmer’s Daughter’s previous chapters, find the link at the top of the page or click HERE.

The sun was bright, the breeze gentle Saturday morning when Molly packed blueberry muffins, fresh milk and cheese, and apple slices into a picnic basket, preparing for the drive up the hill to her grandparent’s home. Her grandmother lived alone there now with her cat Macy and a dozen or so chickens out back.

The four years Molly cared for her grandfather as he battled Alzheimers and heart failure had made Molly question God’s existence more than she liked to admit. It had been torture to watch her grandfather fade from sharp and full of life to a confused, weak, shell of his former self.

Almost as hard as watching her grandfather fade away was watching her grandmother’s grief gradually manifest itself into bitterness and anger over the last year. Molly wished she could walk into her grandmother’s house again and see the grandmother she’d known growing up – sweet, caring and excited about life.

Molly caught sight of Alex standing outside the barn, leaning back against the front of a tractor as she walked into the bright sunshine with the basket. One leg was crossed over the other and Molly’s breath caught when she saw him. Good grief, was it just her or he had suddenly become even more handsome over night?

A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Where you headed off to?”

“Taking some goodies to Grandma,” Molly said, opening the door to the old farm truck her dad had fixed up for her.

“Where’s your little red hood?”

Molly laughed as she slid behind the steering wheel. “The wolf stole it.”

Alex walked to the truck and pushed the door closed behind Molly. The window was already rolled down, and he leaned on the edge of it, a whiff of his aftershave drifting toward Molly and sending a surge of unexpected pleasure coursing through her.

“Drive safe, Molly Bell,” he drawled in a fake Southern accent.

Molly tipped her head to one side, amused, but also bewildered by his behavior. “My middle name is Anne. And it’s just up the road, so I’m sure I’ll be fine, Alex.”

“Oh, is it?” Alex pushed his hand back through his hair, leaving it disheveled but somehow still attractive. “Well, then, drive safe, Molly Anne.”

Molly wasn’t sure what to make of Alex’s recent increased attention to her, but the way he said her name made her heartbeat faster. She watched him walk away, admiring how his jeans fit perfectly and his white T-shirt did nothing to hide the muscles underneath.

Molly had once thought of Alex as another brother and she was sure he had thought of her as a sister. The two of them had been joking and teasing each other since he started working on the farm five years ago, but recently the tone of their teasing had changed; exactly how Molly couldn’t explain, other than to say it was less childish and more edgy with flirting overtones.

How she viewed Alex was starting to change too. Her heart pounded faster when she was near him, her eyes lingered longer on his retreating form or his tanned biceps when he lifted hay into the cows’ trough, and the sound of his voice sent a buzz of excitement skittering through her limbs. If his hand grazed her skin while handing her something, she immediately felt a weakness in her knees that made her flush warm with embarrassment.

She shifted the truck into gear and shook her head, trying to shake the thoughts of Alex from her mind. She had other things to think about today. Alex Stone would have to wait.

Her grandmother’s house was a mile from her parents, nestled in between a grove of trees at the edge of the family’s farm, where her great-grandfather had built it almost 102 years ago, farming the land around it, That first farm, 150 acres large, had expanded over the years until it became the 400-acres the Tanners now farmed on. Molly drove past the sign designating the farm as a Century Farm in the state of Pennsylvania and turned into the dirt driveway, pulling the car up in front of the garage.

Behind the house was the barn where the Tanners now stored much of their equipment and some of their feed, a chicken coup, which Franny Tanner still visited each morning to collect eggs for her breakfast, a large oak tree with a swing hanging from one of its large branches, and further beyond the yard was the corn fields her father and uncle now harvested each year.

Molly’s grandmother, sitting on the front porch, rocked slowly in one of the rocking chairs her grandfather had built when he’d finally handed over the reins of the farm to his sons, not fully retiring, but finally relenting to working less and rocking more.

Franny looked up to watch Molly pull into the driveway, her heart softening at her second born grandchild. Her grandchildren were the highlights of her day, even on the days she resented their overuse of digital devices. Molly was different than her younger cousins, though. She wasn’t interested in cellphones or notepads or whatever they were called. She worked hard, cared for her family and took on the bulk of the responsibility at the family’s farm store. Franny was proud of her and she wished she could say it without feeling like she might completely fall apart emotionally.

Molly carried a basket with her and bent to kiss Franny on the cheek. “Hey, gran. I brought you some muffins I baked the other day.”

“Thank you, hon’. That’ll be a nice treat. Why don’t you make us a plate and we can sit out here and chat a bit? There’s some lemonade in the fridge.”

Molly set the basket down in the kitchen, poured the lemonade into two glasses she pulled out, and placed two muffins on plates.

Back outside, carrying the tray, she noticed her grandmother’s furrowed eyebrows and thin-lipped mouth, a clear sign something was bothering her.

“You okay, gran?” Molly asked, placing the tray down on the small table between the two rocking chairs.

Her grandmother’s familiar smile quickly returned but Molly could tell it was forced.

“Of course, honey.”

Her answer was curt, and Molly knew she’d been thinking about something that made her sad.

“So, how is it going on the farm?” Franny asked.

“Good. Dad and Alex are working on the tractor. It broke down, but they think they can fix it. We’re baking the rest of the cakes for the rummage sale. Hopefully, they will be fresh enough for Mavis –“

Franny snorted.

“That Mavis. Always worried about things being fresh. I guess that’s why she’s been married three times.”

Molly tried not to laugh.

“Grandma, that’s not nice.”

“But it’s true.”

Franny looked Molly up and down as Molly stood and leaned against the porch railing. Molly’s curves were still there, but she had definitely been gaining weight over the years. Franny had been in such a fog after Ned died, she was only now starting to notice changes in those around her.

“What happened to you anyhow?” Franny said disapprovingly before she even thought about her words. “You used to be so skinny.”

Molly looked at the ground quickly. Franny saw the pain in her granddaughter’s face and felt immediate guilt. Why did she keep blurting awful things at people? It was as if her brain and mouth had become disconnected and she didn’t know how to reconnect it. She remembered thinking as a teenager and young adult that old people could be so rude. Her mother had told her it wasn’t that they were rude, they just weren’t afraid to say what they thought anymore.

Was that it? Did she really think her precious granddaughter who had done so much to help her and Ned when he was sick needed to be reminded that she’d gained weight? Did she really not care that she had just hurt her granddaughter’s feelings? She knew that wasn’t true. A sharp twinge of remorse twisted deep inside her.

“Well, life happens, Grandma,” Molly said with a shrug. “Some people just gain weight.”

Franny looked at a butterfly on the bush in front of the house, shame overwhelming her. She swallowed hard.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I didn’t mean that to come out like that – I just wasn’t thinking about . . . about how it sounded.”

Franny realized she sounded like that upstart pastor who had visited her the other day now. He had stuttered and fallen over his words like a drunk man walking home from the bar and now she was doing the same thing.

Molly sighed. “It’s okay, Gram. You’re right. I have gained weight. I need to work on it and lose it again. I’ve joined the new gym in town. Liz asked me to join with her. I thought I’d see if I can get back into shape.”

Franny knew it wasn’t okay. Her granddaughter was too nice to say so. She wished she hadn’t said anything.

“Well, that will be nice,” she said, even though she didn’t think Molly really need to join a gym.

She was just going through a phase. The weight would come off eventually. Franny was sure of it.

Molly walked toward the front door, smiling again, but Franny knew she was still hurt, and the smile was an attempt to cover it.

“Hey, how about I get the paper and we read the funny pages?” Molly asked.

Franny reached out and touched Molly’s hand, trying to say again how sorry she was for the hurtful question. She smiled. “I’d enjoy that, yes. Make sure to read me Beetle Bailey. He’s my favorite.”

Franny felt like crying when Molly went into the house for the newspaper, but she couldn’t let herself cry. If she did, she might never stop. She simply had to be better about letting her thoughts fly free and she had to learn how to be nice again.


Molly carried the tray from the front porch to the kitchen, her eyes wandering to the stairwell, her mind wandering to memories of when she’d come here every day to help care for her grandfather when the dementia had become worse.

“Hannah? Is that you?” he had asked two years ago as she straightened his blankets and pulled them around him in his chair in his room.

“No, Grandpa. It’s Molly.”

Her grandfather was silent as he slid his fingers across the edge of the blanket, his eyebrows furrowing.

“Do I know a Molly?” he asked looking up at her, his blue eyes clouded in confusion.

“Yes, you do,” Molly said, telling him for the third time that day. “I’m your granddaughter. Your son Robert’s daughter.”

“Oh, I see.” Her grandfather still looked confused but forced a smile.

“I bought you some lunch, Grandpa,” she said, turning to the tray she had carried in.

“I don’t want lunch.”

“It’s your favorite. Baked beans and ham.”

“I don’t like baked beans.”

“You actually do.”

“I don’t like it and I don’t want it!” he shouted.

Molly sighed and sat on the chair across from him. She glanced at the CD player on the dresser next to the bed.

“How about some music?” she asked, remembering how music had calmed him in the past.

Pushing play, she began to sing when the words began after a short musical interlude.

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul”

She watched her grandfather’s face, as she sang. At first, he stared at her as he often did. His eyes looking at her, yet through her. Then slowly he began to repeat the words, his expression fading from confusion to peace.

“It is well

With my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul”

Molly sang with him.

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well

With my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul”

“I like that song,” he said with a smile as the song ended. “I used to sing that song with my granddaughter.”

“You still sing that song with her, Grandpa.”

He looked at her, a slight smile tugging at his mouth.

“Oh, Molly,” he said softly, tears in his eyes as he patted her hand. “Is that you?”

Molly clasped her hand over his, watching tears spill down his cheeks. “It is, Grandpa.”

“I love you, Molly girl,” he whispered, leaning up to kiss her cheek.

Molly fought back the tears and returned the kiss.

“I love you too, Grandpa.”