Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 8

Catch up on Molly’s story HERE. As always, this is a story in progress and there very well could be some typos, plot holes and errors.

An update on A New Beginning that I put up on Kindle this week. I have temporarily removed it to fix some errors and issues and hope to have it back up for sale on Monday. A Story to Tell, the first story about Blanche is currently available on Kindle Unlimited (free for members of Kindle Unlimited on Amazon) and will be on sale for $.99 next week for those who don’t have Kindle Unlimited.

“Hey, Molly, guess who I saw in town this morning.”

“No idea.”

“Ben Oliver.”

Molly’s muscles tensed at the name.

It was a name she didn’t like hearing and had hoped she’d never hear again.

She kneeled next to Daisy the cow and prepped her for a milking session. “Oh yeah? Where did you see him?”

“At the gym.”

“Ah. I see.”

Molly hoped Jason would drop the subject. She didn’t want to think about Ben, let alone talk about him, especially in front of Alex.

“Who’s Ben Oliver?” Alex asked, preparing another cow in the stall across from her.

Molly inwardly groaned. Shut up, Alex.

“Molly’s old boyfriend.”

Shut up, Jason.

Alex’s head popped up over the back of a cow. “Boyfriend? Oh yeah?” He grinned. “Do share.”

Jason leaned against a beam, arms folded across his chest, grinning.

“Yep. They were pretty hot and heavy before he left for college in Boston or somewhere.”

Molly’s heart pounded faster. She was furious at Jason for teasing her about Ben, but how would Jason know how much Ben had hurt her the night he’d broke it off with her? Molly had a feeling if he had known not only would he not have been teasing her, but he probably would have punched Ben in the face.

She didn’t know if she would call anything about her and Ben’s relationship ‘hot and heavy.’ They’d only dated a couple of years as two young, inexperienced high school students. He’d been her first major crush, her first kiss and then her first heartbreak.

They’d broken things off when Ben had left for college. Actually, no. Ben had broken things off but if he hadn’t, Molly would have. Especially after what he’d said to his friends when he thought she wasn’t listening.

“He’s a lawyer now,” Jason told Alex. “I don’t know why he’s back here. He can’t be thinking of opening a law office here. There’s definitely less money here than in a big city.”

Alex shrugged. “You never know. There’s probably more legal possibilities in a small town like this than most of us realize. Real estate transactions, divorces, custody battles —”

“Maybe he can represent all those drunk drivers we read about in the Spencer Chronicle,” Jason said with a snort.

Jason stepped away from the beam and reached for a pitchfork. “I still say he’d make more money in a bigger city.”

Alex adjusted the milking machine on one of the cows. “Who knows, though. Maybe he didn’t come back for money.”

He looked at Molly and winked. She saw the wink out of the corner of her eye and ignored it. “Maybe he came back so he can win Molly back.”

Jason shoved the pitchfork into a pile of hay, lifted it and tossed some inside one of the cow’s stalls.

 “Hear that, Molly?” he asked. “Maybe you’ll be the wife of a rich lawyer one day.”

Molly inwardly cringed. She finished hooking up the last of the cows and walked back toward the feed room. “Hey, Alex, keep an eye on the girls. I’m going to get some feed. I’ll be back.”

Alex sipped from a bottle of water as Molly walked past him, noticing the tension in her face. He tried to read the expression, wondering if it was anger, longing, or something else. He vaguely remembered hearing about this Ben guy before. That had been a couple of years ago. From what he’d gathered, Ben had been a high school boyfriend of Molly’s, but their relationship hadn’t been serious. Now he wondered what had happened between the two to make Molly so uncomfortable at the mention of his name.

“So, were they serious?” Alex asked when Molly was out of earshot as he grabbed another rag to wipe the next cow’s udder.

Jason tossed more hay into the stalls. “Who?”

Alex looked over the top of the cow. “What do you mean who? Molly and this Ben guy.”

Jason shrugged and stooped to lift another pitchfork full of hay. “Yeah. I think so. For a while anyhow. I can’t really remember why they stopped dating. I guess because Ben went so far away for college. I always felt bad they broke up. I thought they were a good fit, you know?”

Alex’s eyes narrowed as he looked toward the back of the barn. “Yeah. Uh-huh. I guess.”

He wondered how Molly and this Ben were a good fit. What made anyone a good fit anyhow? If they liked the same things, maybe. Had the same interests. Shared the same faith.

Did Ben and Molly share the same faith? Did Molly miss Ben and if she did then why had her expression been so vague and not more joyful at the mention of his name?

He mentally scolded himself for all the questions he was asking himself. He’d never asked so many questions in his life. Alex Stone, what are you doing right now? This is none of your business. You have no claim on Molly because you can’t even tell Molly how you feel about her, you coward.

 Alex finished hooking up the cows in his row to the milking machine and stretched his arms out to the side, yawning.

“Out late again last night?” Jason asked. “I didn’t see you when I got back from Ellie’s.”

“Actually, no. I couldn’t sleep. Took a drive, sat and looked at the moon for a while and came home.”

Alex wasn’t about to tell Jason he’d sat and looked at the moon and thought about Molly part of that time. He’d also thought about his past, stupid decisions he’d made over the years, what his future might hold, and wondered what his dad was up to since he barely heard from him anymore.

He unhooked the machine from the first cow in his row, changing the topic. “So, when are you going to ask Ellie to marry you anyhow?

Jason rolled his eyes. “You sound like my mom.”


“I don’t know. I like how it is now. Things are good.”

“Yeah, but don’t you Christians believe in waiting until marriage?”

Jason looked at Alex and laughed. “Not all of our lives revolve around that, dude.”

Alex grinned. “Yeah, but still. Don’t you want to —”

“Hey,” Jason said, holding his hand up toward Alex. “I’m not talking about this with you.”

“Maybe that’s why you’re so uptight sometimes. Maybe you would be less stressed if you and Ellie —”

Jason gently shoved Alex in the arm. “I said I’m not talking about that with you, got it?” He smiled and propped the pitchfork against a wall. “Seriously, though, I have considered proposing to Ellie. And not just for that reason. I really . . .”

Alex wanted to laugh at the red flushing along Jason’s cheeks but with Jason being twice his size he was afraid of ending up with a broken nose.

“I can see myself growing old with her.” Jason finished his sentence after he cleared his throat and looked away, clearly embarrassed by the tenderness he’d just revealed.

Alex patted him on the shoulder. “Then you’re going to have to pull that trigger soon, buddy. Ellie’s not going to wait forever, you know.”

Jason unhooked some more of the cows. “What about you?”

Alex frowned. “What about me?”

“You think you’ll ever settle down?”

Now it was Alex’s turn to flush red. He turned his face quickly away from his friend, bending down to unhook the milking equipment from Daisy, his favorite Jersey. “Eh, who knows. Not something I think about too much.”

Alex wasn’t lying. He really hadn’t thought about settling down. Not in the same way Jason was thinking about it anyhow. What Alex had been thinking about lately was how much he’d fallen in love with farming, with waking up each morning knowing he would be doing something that mattered; something that would provide food for families across the country. He rubbed Daisy’s ears and let her nuzzle his hand.

He’d fallen in love with the smell of fresh cut hay, of cows mooing in the distance, with barn cats, and even with the sweet smell of manure when it was spread in the spring.

As for finding a woman to marry, Alex wasn’t sure yet. He’d never thought about himself married but if he did ever marry he knew he wanted to marry someone just like Molly Tanner, the girl who wasn’t afraid to compete with him in a burping competition or make a hilarious fart joke like one of the guys. Molly was real and if he ever did marry that was what he wanted in a wife – authenticity, kindness and devotion. He had a good feeling he would find all those things in Molly because he already saw them in her.

He chuckled softly. What was he doing even thinking about Molly and marriage in the same vein? Alex Stone and marriage were two things that didn’t go together.

“What’s so funny?” Jason asked.

“Nothing,” Alex said quickly. “Nothing at all.”


Molly slammed the lever to the feed machine up hard and kicked a metal bucket across the barn floor. Why did Jason have to bring up Ben anyhow?

She still remembered well the night Ben broke up with her. They’d gone to the movies, had lunch at a café in town and he had driven her home and walked her to her front porch. She’d expected a kiss before he headed home to finish packing for college, but instead he’d motioned toward the porch swing.

“Hey, Mols, can I talk to you for a minute?”

There was a cool breeze blowing, golden sunlight was pouring across the fields, and a heifer mooed softly in the barn. One of the barn cats rubbed against her shin and she reached down and stroked its head and back.


They sat next to each other, but Molly noticed Ben sat back slightly away from her, instead of pulling her close like he usually did. When he sighed, turning toward her, taking her hands in his, she knew something was wrong.

“This isn’t an easy thing for me to talk to you about, Mols,” he said softly. “But I’m — I mean, it’s just. . .”

He paused, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The rest of what he had to say came out quickly and abruptly.

“You know I’ve been working a lot with Angie at the ice cream shop on the weekends?”

Of course, she knew he’d been working with Angie. Angie Phillippi. Skinny. Blond. Long legs. Perfect. All the things Molly wasn’t.

She was starting to feel uneasy. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, so, yeah. We — Angie and I — we’ve grown close this summer and, the thing is, I think we’ve fallen for each other.”


Molly swallowed hard, a heavy lump forming in the center of her chest.

“Molly you know how much I care about you, but,” Ben shifted nervously on the swing. “I feel different when I am with Angie. I feel — I don’t know. I feel like she really gets me. We’re into the same things. We laugh at each other’s jokes. . .”

I laugh at your jokes, Molly thought.

“She’s . . . I don’t know. She’s someone I can’t imagine not being in my life and it’s not fair to you to keep stringing you along when I know I want to be with Angie.”

I can’t imagine you not being in my life, Molly thought.

Molly nodded slowly, pulling her hands from Ben’s grip. “Oh.”

She wished she could say more than “Oh,” but she seemed to be at a loss for words.

“I’m sorry, Molly. I really am.”

Molly forced a smile.

“It’s okay,” she finally managed to say, pushing the buzzing feeling in her chest – the one that signaled her emotions were about to override her brain – deep down because she was not, no, she was not going to cry in front of Ben Oliver, her first ever crush and boyfriend. “You can’t help how you feel.”

Her voice sounded far away, like someone else’s. What was she even saying? She didn’t believe any of the words flying out of her mouth, but she had to say them to hurry this conservation along, to end it quickly before she sobbed in Ben’s face and made a fool of herself.

Ben sat back slightly, his shoulders relaxing. “I am so relieved you understand. I never wanted to hurt you. I just knew I had to be honest with you, though, and with myself.”

He leaned forward and took her hands in his again. His dark brown eyes focused on hers. “I will always remember our time together, okay? And you’ll always be special to me.”

Molly suddenly felt like a first grader being talked to by their teacher.

“If I’m so special, then why are you breaking up with me?” she wanted to ask, but she didn’t, because she didn’t really want to hear the reason again.

Instead, she told him that she was okay, that she was happy for him, that this was for the best. She was glad he had told her now, instead of waiting until after he left for college, she assured him.

Of course, they’d still be friends.

Of course, she’d write him at college.

Of course, she’d always remember the good times.

Yes. Good luck at college.

She reassured him again she’d be fine and then he’d left with a gentle, brief kiss on her cheek. After he’d left, and she walked into the house, she answered her parents concerned expressions by telling them she and Ben were taking a break while he went to college and that was fine with her. Then she lied again, telling them she was relieved because she had felt herself drifting away from Ben for a few months now. He’d be away at college, going to law school, and she’d be at the community college, pursuing a degree in English, or writing, or something similar. There hadn’t been a future for them anyhow, right?

She hadn’t told Jason because he’d been away at college, hanging out with Alex and earning a degree he’d use when he came back to the farm.

Her parents had said they understood, asked if she was going to be okay, and each gave her hugs.

“Yep. I’m good.”

She had smiled broadly and walked up the stairs to her room. Behind the closed door she blasted Garth Brooks from her stereo, sat at on her bed, laid there on her side for a few moments starring at the blank wall of  her bedroom and then cried until her throat and chest burned.

As if Ben’s breaking up with her to date Angie hadn’t been enough, Molly was in the convenience store a week later when she heard Ben’s voice from another aisle.

“Yeah, I know it is weird,” he was saying. “But it was time. Molly’s a nice girl, but Angie. Dang. Angie. She’s hot. She’s got legs that go for miles. And she’s so slender she just fits against me perfectly, you know?”

One of Ben’s friends laughed a laugh Molly could only think to describe as a dirty laugh. “Fits against you? Dude, how far have things gone with Angie?”

Ben joined the laughter. “That’s personal, man. All I can say is she has way more experience than Molly Tanner ever did or ever will.”

Molly’s sob had caught in her throat as she sat the soda and chips she’d been holding onto the counter and darted outside. Tears streaked her face all the way back to the farm, her hands tightly gripping the steering wheel of her grandfather’s old pickup. At church the pastor always acted like God cared more about what a person looked like inside, but Molly knew that wasn’t what Ben cared about. Somehow, it seemed to matter more at that moment what Ben cared about.

As she drove, she vowed to never again let herself fall for someone like she had fallen for Ben. She’d never let those walls down again, let any man see the deepest parts of her. She was going to keep her distance from men from now on, keep herself from feeling the pain she felt now.

She vowed that one day she’d lose weight and make Ben Oliver regret he’d walked away from her all those years ago. Watching the feed fill the wheelbarrow, Molly felt self-focused anger rage through her. Ben wasn’t going to regret he’d left her if he saw her now. She’d never lost that weight and had maybe gained more. What she hadn’t gained was more experience at whatever she should have had experience at, at whatever experience Angie had had. She was still the same, fat Molly and there was no way Ben would ever regret he had broken up with her

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 5

If you want to catch the beginning of Blanche’s story, you can read it on Kindle and Kindle Unlimted.  However, you don’t have to read the first part to be able to enjoy A New Beginning.

If you want to read A New Beginning’s chapters that have been posted so far, you can find themhere (or at the top of the page). 

As always, this is the first draft of a story. There will be typos and in the future, there will be changes made, some small, some large and as before I plan to publish the complete story later as an ebook. Also, sorry about the lack of indentations at the beginning of paragraphs. I can’t seem to figure out how to make that happen in WordPress.

Light, Shadows & Magic (2)Daddy and Jackson were standing in the doorway with wet, muddy boots dripping water on the rug in the front room.

“Did you catch anything?” Mama asked.

“Not much,” Jackson said, feigning sadness, his hands behind his back.

“Oh well, at least you had fun,” Mama said with a knowing smile.

Jackson slid his arm from behind his back, holding up a stack of fish hanging on a long section of fishing wire and grinned.

“Well, we did catch these,” he said with a proud smile.

“You little trickster,” I said, taking the fishing line from his hand and kissing his cheek. “Now I suppose you expect Grandma and I to clean these for dinner.”

He laughed. “Well, of course, Mama. I don’t want to see no fish guts.”

Daddy grinned, rubbing his hand across Jackson’s hair.

“Take your boots off kid and we’ll tell the lady folk about our excursion.”

Jackson was my Daddy’s shadow. They fished together, worked on the car, mowed the lawn, cut down trees, and fixed any appliance that needed to be fixed. Wherever Daddy was, Jackson wasn’t far behind him and I could tell Daddy loved it, especially since he’d never had a son of his own to talk to about mechanics and so-called “manly things.”

As I reached over to shut the door, I caught sight of a blue truck pulling into the driveway and sighed.

“What in the world is he doing here?” I asked as Judson stepped out of the truck and waved.

It had four months since I’d been reintroduced to Judson and it seemed like I was seeing him everywhere lately – at Emmy’s, at church, at the diner when Emmy and I went for lunch during the week, and now at my own home since Daddy kept inviting him over to borrow tools or help with odd jobs. It also didn’t help he had moved into Mr. Worley’s old tenant house, less than a mile from our house.

Mama looked over my shoulder and smiled, waving back at Judson.

“I think I know what he’s doing here,” she said.

I rolled my eyes.

“Mama, please.”

“Well, I’m just saying. He’s single. You’re single…”


“Knock it off you two,” Daddy said, pulling his boots off. “I know what he’s doing here. He’s bringing my pruning saw back. I loaned it to him to cut back some of the branches at his place. Stop reading into it.”

Judson lifted the saw out of the back of the truck and walked toward the porch, still smiling.

“He does have a lovely smile,” Mama whispered behind me.

“Mama, stop it,” I hissed.

Daddy pushed past us. “Good grief, Janie. Why don’t you just get a lasso and brand him already?”

Mama chuckled and grinned at me.

“Hey, that might work.”

I pressed my hand against my forehead. “Lord, Jesus, give me strength,” I said, copying Mama’s gesture when she was stressed.

Daddy stepped onto the porch and held his hand out.

“Judson! Hello! How did the saw work for you?”

“Great, Mr. Robbins and I managed not to lose any limbs in the process.” Judson laughed as he walked up onto the porch. He took Daddy’s outstretched hand and shook it.

“Jud, I’ve told you before – call me Alan,” Daddy said, holding the screen door open. “Why don’t you stay for dinner? I’m sure a bachelor like yourself would like a good, home-cooked meal for once. Blanche and Janie are going to fry up some fish for dinner. Jackson and I just caught them down at the pond.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude …..”

“Oh, you wouldn’t be intruding,” Mama said. “Get on in here. We have plenty of food and plenty of room at the table.”

I smirked as I walked to the kitchen with the fish, my back to the front door, recognizing my Mama’s familiar ploy. For the last couple of years, she had composed a rotating list of potential suitors for me and Judson seemed to be on the top of that list since she’d met him at Emmy’s.

I listened to Judson and my parents chatting in the living room for a few moments and then Daddy excused himself to clean up from his fishing trip and Mama took Jackson upstairs to change out of his muddy clothes.

“Hey, Blanche.”

I smiled over my shoulder, cutting into the fish on the counter.

“Hey, yourself. How’s it going?”

“Can’t complain. The rain finally stopped so it looks like we’ll be able to pour the concrete at the new pharmacy location in Tannersville. I’ll be glad to finally get that job done.”

He stepped behind me and looked over my shoulder. I could smell his cologne and couldn’t deny he smelled better than I expected for a man who had just been cutting branches outside his home.

“Where did you learn how to debone fish like that?”

“Mama and Daddy. I don’t enjoy it, but it’s a handy skill to have when you have a dad who likes to take his grandson fishing.”

Jackson skipped into the kitchen and looked up at Judson.

“I caught all those fish, Judson,” he said proudly. “Grandpa helped me, but I did most of it. I even took the hook out of that big one over there. He ate half the worm!”

“Way to go, buddy,” Judson said. “I don’t know a thing about fishing so I know I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

“Sure, you could. You can go fishing with me and Grandpa next time we go.”

Judson smiled and leaned back against the counter across from me. “I may just take you up on that. If you agree to put the worms on the hook for me. I could never do that.”

Jackson shrugged. “Nothing to it. Just don’t think about their guts squirting out on your hand when you shove the hook through.”

Judson grimaced and then laughed. “Gee, thanks, kid. I never actually thought of it that way before.”

I smiled at Judson, tossing a row of bones on top of the pile I’d already started. “My kid is nothing if not graphic in his descriptions.”

“I’m going to go dig a hole!” Jackson said skipping past us and out the back door.

Judson watched the door close and grinned. “Man, to be young again and find excitement in merely digging a hole.”

I reached for the flour in the turntable next to Judson, set it on the counter and opened the cupboard, reaching up for the bowl. I silently grumbled about my short stature as my fingertips grazed the edge of the bowl. I raised myself on my tiptoes but still couldn’t fully grasp the edge to lift it down.

“Let me help you with that.”

Judson’s hand grazed my arm as he reached over me for the bowl. He looked down at me as he handed it to me, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“Good thing I was here, or you would have been climbing on a chair and falling off or something.”

He was standing too close. I had to move away before I noticed the color of his eyes, or the masculine shape of his jaw, or anything about him at all.

“I have to get dinner done,” I said softly. “Maybe we can talk after dinner.”

“Sure thing. Can’t wait to taste the fish.”

I noticed a tremble in my hand as I pulled the eggs from the refrigerator. I cracked the eggs in a bowl and dipped the first piece of fish. My heart was pounding and a flush of heat filled my chest and rushed into my face. I hated the way my body reacted when Judson was close to me.

The first time I had experienced it we had been at church. At church of all places.

He had sat in our row and during the singing there weren’t enough hymnals so I stepped closer to let him look at mine. The strong timbre of his voice startled me, and I looked up to see if it was truly coming from his mouth. It was. His eyes were focused forward and I became fascinated with the way the muscles moved in his jaw as he sang. I pulled my gaze back to the hymnal moments later but then my eyes were drifting over his hands, noticing the shape of them and from there, my eyes drifted up to a tanned forearm and bicep. I wished to myself it wasn’t such a warm day and he wasn’t wearing a short-sleeved shirt. I closed my eyes and tried to control my thoughts. Church was nowhere to be noticing the shape of a man’s arms, the timber of his voice, his jaw, the blue of his eyes, the smell of his cologne…

Lord, Jesus,” I had prayed to myself. “Keep my mind focused on you and not on a man. That’s how I got in trouble before. I don’t want to go down that road again.

As soon as the singing was finished, I stepped quickly away from Judson and gently ushered Jackson to sit between us so there would be no chance of me noticing anything remotely attractive about Judson T. Waignwright.

I’d been making similar attempts to distance myself ever since. If I saw him in the supermarket I chose a different aisle. If he was across the street and saw me, I waved and then ducked into a store, as if I had meant to go there in the first place. If he was having dinner at Emmy and Sam’s I quickly made an excuse not to stay. I didn’t need him anywhere near me, clouding my mind and sending my heart racing, making me forget that I had built walls around my life and heart for a reason.

Mama helped me finish dinner and we set the table, adding an extra place for Judson. I made sure to sit him at the end of the table, across from Daddy and between Mama and Jackson, a good place for me to avoid accidentally grazing a hand against his or for him to try to start a conversation with me.

As I placed the last for next to a plate, I caught sight of Judson standing in the living room, looking at the photo of my uncle Jason hanging on the wall over the couch. Jason was wearing his Marine uniform in the photo, his broad smile identical to Daddy’s.

Daddy stepped behind Judson. “That’s my brother, Jason. He was killed in Korea. 1952.”

Judson turned to face Daddy, his expression somber. “I’m so sorry to hear that, Mr. Robbins. What a huge sacrifice your family made for our country.”

Daddy nodded, swallowing hard, and then gestured toward the set table. “It was hard for us, yes, but he died doing what he loved – serving his country.”

“You can sit here,” I told Judson, pulling the chair at the end of the table out.

“Did you ever serve, sir?” Judson asked Daddy after Mama said the prayer.

Daddy handed Judson the plate of fish. “I was drafted during World War II but it was at the end of the war. I never saw combat. The war ended before I was ever shipped out. Jason was my baby brother. The youngest of us four kids. He always wanted to be in the Army so he signed up right after high school. A year later he was in Korea and six months after that they shipped him home in a box.”

“That’s one reason I don’t like to talk about our country going to war again. I don’t want other families to have to go through what ours did.”

Daddy cleared his throat and I knew it was to try to keep tears at bay.

“I won’t make this a political discussion,” he said with a small laugh. “That isn’t appropriate dinner conversation.”

Judson nodded in agreement. “I don’t mind a little political banter but I understand what you mean about it not being great for dinner conversations. For what it’s worth, though, I agree with you and hope our country stays out of the situation in Vietnam. We have no business being there.”

Part of me was glad to see Daddy and Judson conversing about politics so easily but another part of me wanted to growl in frustration. It seemed the farther away I tried to get from Judson, the closer my family got to him. Keeping my distance certainly wasn’t going to be easy.


“You can’t keep living in a pause when your life deserves to move forward.”

I thought about what Pastor Frank had said from the pulpit a couple of weeks ago as I laid back on my bed on a warm Saturday afternoon. Sunlight reflected off the hand mirror I had laid on top of my dresser, casting rainbows across the ceiling.

“Your story isn’t over because something horrible happened to you. God is writing your story and He wants you to let Him walk with you through it to victory – to a well-deserved ending,” Pastor Frank had said. “Your story will end with God getting the glory out of every situation in your life. Maybe you were loved once and then that love ended, and you think you can’t be loved again. But you can be loved again, and you are already loved by your Father in Heaven.”

Laying on my back on the top of the bedspread I thought about how my life had been on pause for five years now. I wouldn’t let anyone too close to me or Jackson and I was still living with my parents when I could have easily rented a house or apartment. I spent most of my nights alone when I could have been involved in more activities in the community.

It was as if I was afraid to really live, afraid I would mess up again and the happy state I was now in would crumble around me. The ringing of the phone pulled me from my thoughts. Mama and Daddy were outside watching Jackson ride his bike so I knew I’d have to go down the stairs and pick up the phone.

“Hey, baby girl, how are you doing?” Miss Mazie’s voice on the other end of the phone was sweet and comforting.

Miss Mazie, the sweet woman with the skin dark like chocolate and the discerning spirit that could also see through all my lies. I’d met her after church one Sunday in Syracuse during a time when I was newly married, lonely, homesick and at the beginning of an unplanned pregnancy. She had been like a second mother to me when I was so far away from my own. Her thick Mississippi accent brought a smile to my face as I sat on the couch and leaned back to enjoy our conversation.

“I’m not doing too bad. How’s life been treating you, Miss Mazie?”

“Well, it’s been treating me real good. Real good.”

“Jackson and I are still talking about our last trip up to see you.”

Miss Mazie’s hearty laugh filtered through the receiver.

“That was a good visit. I couldn’t believe how much that boy had grown!”

“And I couldn’t believe how much Hannah’s kids had grown,” I said. “And Buffy’s, especially the new baby, who isn’t even a baby anymore.”

“Nope, she’s three already. Kind of hard to believe – she’s such a miracle baby and livin’ right up to that designation.”

Buffy’s youngest daughter, Patty, wasn’t even supposed to be born after Buffy had suffered a series of miscarriages over the years. About a year after I left God had blessed Buffy and her husband, the pastor of the church I’d attended, with another baby and she’d come despite a number of complications that left Buffy on bedrest for the last month of her pregnancy.

“And how is your daughter doing?” I asked Miss Mazie Any more babies on the horizon for her?”

“Oh, glory! Didn’t I tell you? She’s got twins on the way, Blanche! Can you believe it?”

I thought about Isabell, the tender way she’d bandaged my head and wrapped my ribs after I stumbled into her mother’s house, a bloody mess that night. It was our first meeting. What a way to meet a person, blooding dripping down the back of my neck and my lip swollen three times its’ size.

“I can’t imagine how she’ll continue working as a nurse with twins and two others at home,” I said. “But she’s an amazing lady and I know she can do it.”

“Well, she’s planning to take a break from nursing after the twins are born,” Miss Mazie said. “She’s finally realized she doesn’t have to be super mom to be walking in the place God called her to be in. It’s an answer to my prayers. It was hard watching her try to do so much and never take time for herself to rest. Of course, she won’t have much time to rest with all those youngin’s but at least she won’t be caring for them and working at the same time.”

I sighed and bit my lower lip, trying to decide if I’d bring the topic of Hank up with Miss Mazie or not.

“Miss Mazie…remember when you asked me about Hank when we were up there? If I’d forgiven him for what he’d done?”

“Oh yes, honey. I was probably a bit too bold there, but you know I know how hard that forgiveness is to come by for us. Forgiveness is so important because of the prison it puts us in.”

“I know,” I said. “And I wanted to tell you I’ve thought about it a lot lately and I think I can start trying to forgive him now. I can’t say I’m all the way there, but I’ve been able to at least pray for him. His father abused him. He never felt like he was good enough. We got pregnant with Jackson so young – I think it was all just too much for him, not that I want to make excuses for how treated me.”

“That’s a good step, honey,” Miss Mazie said. “A very important one. Every time you feel you can’t forgive him you ask God to help you to do it. Only with God can we do what we feel we never can. Now, okay, honey, so you’re working on forgiving Hank. But what about yourself? Have you forgiven yourself?”

I didn’t answer her. I couldn’t because I knew I hadn’t. I coiled the phone cord around my finger, crossed one leg over the other and bounced my foot.



“Forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing to do, I know, but God doesn’t want you living like you don’t deserve happiness. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“There is a bright future out there for you, honey. Don’t dim it by living in self-loathing.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Okay, now. Lecture over. Fill me in on how everyone else is. How are Edith and Jimmy and Emmy and that sweet husband of hers? How are your mama and daddy? And is Jackson riding his bike yet? Tell me it all. I don’t have much of a life, so I have to live it through all of you.”

I laughed and then I filled Miss Mazie in on all she had asked me to, conveniently leaving out any mention of Judson “J.T.” Waignwright.