Fran woke the morning after the wedding with her new husband, Charlie, wrapped around her. His presence comforted her, and she snuggled back into his arms. He stirred when she did, and he kissed her shoulder.
“Good morning, darling,” he said. “Did you sleep well, Frannie?”
“I did. How about you?” His warm breath on her skin felt incredible.
“Never better.” He meant it, too.
“It’s so comfortable right here with you, my love, that I don’t care to move.”
“There’s no reason we should get up right away unless you’re hungry. In that case, I’m on the job.”
Fran considered his suggestion. “I guess I am a little peckish. We haven’t eaten since yesterday afternoon.”
Charlie sat up in bed and slipped into his pajama bottoms. “What would you like, darling? I think the reservation comes with breakfast delivered to the room this morning.”
“Tea for certain,” Fran said. “Mama and I have pancakes or French toast in the morning.”
“How about fresh eggs and bacon with biscuits, gravy, and grits?” he suggested.
“That sounds wonderful. Would you hand me my robe, Charlie? I’d like to get up.” she asked him, her skin flushed a bright red.
He smiled at her. “Of course.” He took her robe from their overnight bag and brought it to her. “You have to pay the fine, though.”
She smiled back at him. “What fine?”
“Well, how about a smooch?” He leaned in to kiss her, maybe with a bit too much passion. “Oh, Frannie,” he whispered, “I need you.”
“What about breakfast?” she asked.
“It can wait,” he replied.
Several hours later, they were at the house to settle in. Charlie needed to unpack his clothing and belongings and move bedroom furniture. Penny insisted the young couple take her bedroom. The large room had an attached sitting room with Charlie’s treadmill in it. Penny would sleep in Fran’s old bedroom, still a decent sized room but smaller than the master suite.
Charlie brought the last box from the Farmer house and carried it into the sunroom off the kitchen. He slipped his shoes from his feet and padded up the steps, the box in his arms. Fran was making the bed with fresh sheets and a new duvet.
“Are you finished with boxes, love?” she asked. He looked exhausted.
“Yes,” he said, and let it fall from his hands. “It is clothing and unbreakable things. I’ll set it in the other room for now. I can’t unpack one more box.” He kicked the box, walked into the bedroom, and plopped down in a chair. “It’s cold out there.”
“I guess we couldn’t have picked a worse weekend to move,” she said and walked to him. She sat on his lap, and he hugged her close. “At least it’s finished now.”
“Finally,” he huffed and kissed her. “I need a shower. I’m all sweaty and tired.” He kissed her once more, and she stood.
“I need to start supper soon anyway,” she replied. “I’ll be downstairs if you need me, love.”
Penny was across the hallway in her bedroom, getting everything organized and tidy when Fran peeked her head in the room. “This feels weird, Mama,” she said. “Are you positive you’re okay taking this room?”
Penny chuckled. “It’s a little late now, child. Besides, I’m sure. It’s your home now. I’m just the intrusive mother-in-law.”
Fran frowned. “You’re not intrusive, Mama.” She walked to where her mother stood and hugged her. “Thank you for everything. It was a beautiful wedding.”
Penny smiled. “You’re welcome, sweet pea.”
Fran padded down the steps and into the kitchen. She had planned a simple supper of grilled cheese and soup. It was her favorite meal on a snowy day. They seldom made fancy, extravagant meals. The women were too busy with chores to bother.
Life returned to normal in the morning. Fran would wake early to care for and feed the animals. She and Penny kept their garden, which they kept in a small greenhouse, weeded and tended during the winter. Life on a farm, however tiny, never stopped.
Charlie walked into the kitchen as Fran prepared sandwiches and hugged her close. He kissed her neck, but she turned around with a pained expression on her face.
“Did I do something wrong?” he asked, surprised at her reaction.
“No, it’s just… I feel funny being affectionate around Mama.”
“She knows we are married, darling. I’d imagine it would surprise her if we didn’t show affection to one another.”
She sighed. “I know. It’s just so new.” It was new to both of them, and he understood. They had both been innocent on their wedding night. “Please, give me some time to adjust?”
He nodded and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Of course. I love you.”
“I love you, Charlie. Thank you for understanding.”
After supper, Charlie cleaned up the dishes while Fran fed and milked the cows, Missy and Cora. She had neglected to care for them that morning, and they mooed their delight when they saw her. Fran grabbed a stool and sat before Missy. She always had a treat for the cows when she milked them. Missy nudged her hand in expectation.
“Yes, Missy, here’s your apple,” Fran laughed. She reached into her pocket and pulled out half an apple, cut into quarters. Missy took the treat and mooed her approval. Fran’s warm, capable hands milked the young cow, and when she finished, she carried the bucket into the house and placed it into the fridge. In the morning, Penny would prepare it to make fresh butter and cheese. Charlie joined her in the barn when he finished cleaning the kitchen.
Missy walked to Charlie, nudged him, and voiced her displeasure at his empty hands. “She’s looking for a treat, but she’s already had her apple. This one is for Miss Cora,” Fran said. The older cow wasn’t as friendly, but she was a decent provider, so they kept her. “Do you want to do the honors?” she asked Charlie.
“Sure. I know my way around a heifer,” he joked and realized his comment sounded odd. He laughed a little harder than he should have while Fran blushed. He sat on the stool and readied Cora, but his hands were cold, and she flinched as he touched her. “I guess she doesn’t like me, or my hands are too cold,” he laughed.
“That would be your icy hands. Cora’s picky.” Fran patted Cora and gave her the other half of the apple to distract her while Charlie milked her. When he finished, Fran took the bucket from him while he finished feeding the cows and chickens. The bees would wait until the morning.
Even though it was early, Charlie got ready for bed. He needed to report at six the next morning, meaning he needed to be up and out of the house by five. Charlie took a quick shower and laid his uniform out. Fran was upstairs in the bedroom when he walked into the room.
“I want to say I’m sorry, Charlie,” she whispered.
“What for, darling?”
“I didn’t mean to make things awkward downstairs earlier. Mama and Daddy never showed affection when I was growing up. It feels odd to do it with her in the same house. Charlie, I promise I will work on it. I don’t want us to feel like we can’t love each other in our own home.”
Charlie sat on the bed and patted the spot next to him. When she sat, he took her hands in his and looked into her eyes. “Frannie, we’re okay, love. I get why it is weird. I mean, she’s in the next room. But I can’t in good conscience take her home from her. She belongs here with you, with us in our home.”
With tears in her eyes, she hugged him close. “I’m so glad you understand. But I promise I will work on my shyness. Maybe I’ll speak with Mama.”
Charlie nodded his head. “Whatever makes it easier, love. I know it’s early, but why don’t you lay down with me now? It’s still our wedding weekend, you know.”
“I’d love to, Charlie,” she purred.
The next morning his alarm rang at three o’clock, and he turned it off, so he didn’t wake Fran. It snowed all night, and since Saturday morning, a foot of snow had fallen. Though he’d grown up with Appaloosa Plains weather, Charlie preferred the climate in Strangeville in the winter. The county was a desert community, hosting a few homes, some businesses, a vast military base, and a prison. Few people lived in Strangeville, but the winters were mild and pleasant. As he peered out the window at the street, he appreciated his previous post.
Though his time was short, he walked to the barn with an apple in his pocket, and two eager heifers greeted him. “Good morning, ladies!” he said and laughed at Missy as she nudged his hand and mooed. He took the apple and gave each cow two pieces, rubbed their noses, and spread some hay for them. Then he walked to the chicken coop and spread some feed on the ground for them to eat. The rooster looked at him, cocked his head, and crowed once. Charlie laughed as he walked back inside.
With ten minutes to spare before he needed to leave, he left a quick note for Fran to let her know he had fed the animals. He then tiptoed upstairs to grab his uniform coat. Fran was still sleeping, so Charlie bent to kiss her cheek and brushed a lock of hair from her face. “I love you,” he whispered into her ear, covered her with the blanket, and turned to leave.
About an hour later, Fran awakened, her alarm set for six o’clock. She was unaware that Charlie had helped her, so she tiptoed down the stairs to start a kettle for tea and a quick bite to eat before she started on her morning chores. The note Charlie left for her was waiting on the counter, and she smiled when she read it.
With two fewer chores, she skipped toward the greenhouse, humming a holiday tune. The beehive sat just outside the greenhouse door. In the summer, they were valuable pollinators. In the winter, on colder days like this one, they were dormant. Fran never heard the angry buzzing from inside the hive as she slipped her mother’s netting over her face, the smoker in her hand, and lifted the top from the beehive. The bees awakened with the fury of a tropical hurricane and attacked her, stinging at her. Fran shrieked in terror under full attack. She could only hunker down into the snow for protection.
Penny heard the commotion outside her bedroom window and looked out. She couldn’t see what was causing Fran’s apparent panic, but that something was awry was clear. She hurried outside to the backyard as fast as she could go.
“Mama!” Fran cried out. “Help me!” Penny had never seen the bees attack with this ferocity.
“Run, Fran! Get to the garage!” Penny shouted. Fran got up, still under attack, and scrambled for cover. Only a few bees had followed her inside, but she killed them with no issue. Fran was crying, seated on the floor when Penny reached her. “Are you okay, Fran?” she asked.
Fran sniffled. “I’m not sure, Mama. My skin feels like I’m on fire.” They identified five different places where the bees stung her, the stingers still attached. The two women walked to the house together. Penny tended her stings and applied medicine to each one.
“Rest, child. I’ll take care of the bees this morning. The garden can wait.” Penny kissed her forehead and walked back upstairs to get dressed.
Fran walked to the kitchen and made another cup of tea. The stings on her arm had formed welts, and they were painful. She passed Penny on the stairs on her way up. “Mama, I’m going to lie down a while. I’m not feeling well.”
“If you need me, let me know, Fran. I’ll be there in a jiffy.” She walked to their bedroom, curled up on the bed and fell asleep.
Charlie returned home from work at two o’clock and expected to see Fran finishing up chores. Instead, she was absent. Penny walked in from the yard, a basket of fresh produce in her arms. “If you’re looking for Fran, she’s napping upstairs. The bees attacked and stung her a few times. She hasn’t been well since.”
“Oh, my poor Frannie,” he exclaimed. “I’ll take care of her. Thanks, Penny.” Charlie climbed the stairs and tiptoed into the bedroom where she was sleeping. He removed his jacket, laid it on the chair, and sat beside her. He brushed a lock of curly, flaming red hair from her face and kissed her cheek.
She awakened to his handsome face, and she smiled. “Hi, love,” she greeted him. “Are you home early, or have I slept most of the day?”
“You’ve been asleep since this morning, I guess. Are you okay, darling?” He noticed three welts on her arms, his fingers grazed them. “Those look painful.”
She winced under his touch. “A bit. I’ve not seen the bees attack like that, never in the winter. They’re dormant when it’s this cold outside.” She shook her head. “I don’t understand it.”
“Well, I’ll feed the bees from now on, honey. Just leave them for me, and I’ll care for them when I get home from work.” He kissed her and caressed her cheek. “You are so beautiful, Frannie. Sometimes I can’t believe you’re my wife.”
She blushed. “Well, I am. I love you so much, Charlie.”
“I love you too, darling,” he replied. “My day is free tomorrow. What do you say we do something fun together? Would you like to see the festival? I’d like to decorate the house for the holiday, too.”
“I would love to! We can get our picture taken together for our Snowflake Day cards.”
“Our first holiday together. You know, sweetheart, I throw a party every Snowflake Day for my co-workers. It will be my first holiday at this post. It’s a good time to introduce you to my co-workers.”
“I can’t wait,” she said. “You talked about it, but I didn’t think you’d be here this year. I figured we would spend it apart.”
“Oh honey, I’m so glad we’re not. I want to give you a baby this year for Snowflake Day,” he whispered in her ear. “Would you let me?”
“I want nothing more, Charlie.” They both wanted a large family. Fran wanted at least four babies to love and raise.
“After supper, let’s give it another try. If you’re feeling better, that is.” He kissed her again. “I’ll help your Ma with supper tonight. You rest, love.”
“You’re going to spoil me, Charlie,” she said and smiled at him. “I could get used to it.”
“Anything for my girl,” he purred at her. “I’ll call you when it’s ready.”
A month later, on Snowflake Day morning, Charlie woke up tired. Fran was sick, and she was awake the entire night coughing, sneezing, and trying to breathe. He was up half the night with her, running to the kitchen for tea, drawing bath water for her, and rubbing her back to comfort her. She dozed as the sun rose on the eastern horizon. Charlie needed to prepare for the party.
Charlie and Fran planned the entire party. A festive meal would be the centerpiece of the event. Penny had spent the previous day baking. With Fran under the weather, he doubted she could accomplish such a task. He sat at the dining room table, his coffee mug in his hand, and contemplated canceling the party when he heard Penny’s heavy footsteps descending the stairs.
“Good morning, Charlie! Happy Snowflake Day. How’s my daughter?”
“Oh, you heard her?” Charlie asked.
“I couldn’t help it. Fran sounded miserable all night long.”
“Oh, Penny, I’m sorry. We tried to keep quiet. She is pretty sick.” Charlie took the last sip of his coffee and contemplated a refill. “I’m not sure I can pull this party off without her. She was going to cook a full meal today.”
“If you’ll accept my help, I’ll be happy to cook today.” Penny poured herself a cup of coffee and offered to pour him a second cup. “I hope you’ll say yes. I’d hate to see you cancel.”
“Are you sure, Penny? There is much to do.”
“Of course I’m sure, son. I was going to help her, anyway. This will be a piece of cake!” She took a seat next to Charlie at the table. “What time is the party?”
“Two,” he replied.
“Well, I guess I need to get that bird into the oven!” Penny exclaimed. “It won’t cook in the fridge.”
“What can I do to help?” Charlie offered.
“If you could, please feed the cows and chickens? Leave the bees for the day. They’ve been testy since they attacked Fran.”
“I’m on it,” Charlie nodded and put his snow boots and jacket on. “I’ll be in soon.” He grabbed an apple from the counter, quartered it, and stuck it into his pocket. One half was for Missy and the other half for Cora.
Fran shuffled down the steps and made her way into the kitchen. Without even noticing Penny was preparing the turkey, she turned the gas stove on and warmed the tea kettle. A feverish groan left her lips. She hurt everywhere. She walked to the dining table to sit and wait for the whistle.
Penny wiped her hands on her apron and walked into the dining room. “You don’t look good, Fran.”
“Ugh, I don’t feel well, Mama. When did you come downstairs?” Fran held her head in her hands, trying to rub a headache out of her temples.
“I was standing in the kitchen while you were putting the kettle on, child. I’m surprised you didn’t see me.”
She shook her head. “I didn’t. Is Charlie outside?”
“He is feeding Cora and Missy and the chickens for me. Why don’t you go lay back down, and I’ll bring the tea upstairs when it’s ready?” Penny took Fran’s hand—it was obvious she was feverish. “I’ll bring some aspirin upstairs, too.”
Fran nodded. “I hate to make you climb the stairs, but I won’t say no.” She coughed and groaned. Her body ached with the flu.
“Go on, Fran. I’ll be up soon.” She nodded and walked back toward the steps, sneezing all the way. Poor girl, Penny thought to herself.
A few minutes later, Charlie opened the door to the sunroom, kicked the snow off his boots, and slipped them off. He shivered when the warm air in the kitchen hit his skin. “All done,” he announced.
“Just in time, Charlie. Would you take this tea and toast to Fran? She was here about five minutes ago.”
“Absolutely.” He took the tray Penny had prepared and walked up the steps to their bedroom. Fran was sitting in the chair wrapped in her warm robe and looked out the window, watching the falling snow. “Good morning, sicko,” he joked and smiled at her. “How are you feeling?”
She glared at him, and her expression alarmed him. “How do you think I’m feeling?!” she snapped.
“Whoa, I’m sorry, love. I didn’t mean to—”
“No, I’m sorry, Charlie. I didn’t mean to bite your head off when you’ve come bearing gifts.” She reached for the cup of tea but refused the toast. “Thank you, love.”
“We’re okay, Frannie.” He kissed her forehead and felt the warmth radiating from her. “Have you taken your temperature?”
She nodded and breathed in the steam from the cup. The oolong tea tasted good. “It was 102 an hour ago.”
Charlie took two pills from the medicine bottle Penny had placed on the tray and a glass of fresh orange juice and gave them to Fran. “Take these, love. It might help your aches, too.”
She groaned but took the glass and pills from him. “You take such good care of me, Charlie. Thank you.”
“Anything for my best girl,” he smiled at her. “Try to get some sleep, honey. I’ll be downstairs helping your Mama get ready for the party.”
“I’m sorry I’m sick, baby. Why didn’t you call it off?” Fran took another sip of tea and settled into the chair.
“It isn’t like you could help it, love. I considered it, but your mama volunteered to step up and cook in your place.” He took the empty juice glass from her. “I tried to dissuade her, but she wouldn’t hear it.” He turned to go. “Get some rest, Frannie. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Charlie walked back down the steps to the kitchen. Penny was finishing stuffing the turkey, and it smelled good. “No toast?” she asked him.
“No. Frannie just wanted the tea.” He set the tray on the counter and took the toast. “I’ll eat it, so it doesn’t go to waste.” He reached into the fridge and pulled out some homemade jam and spread it on the toast. “Please let me help you today, Penny. You shouldn’t be doing this alone.”
“Don’t be silly,” she replied. “It’s nothing. I miss making a fuss on the holidays. It’s been just Fran and me, and we’ve never fussed for just us two.”
Several hours later, Charlie finished trimming the tree he neglected to decorate until the last moment. The first guests would arrive in an hour, and supper smelled good. He finished placing snacks on the dining table and mixed a splash of spirits into the eggnog. Penny sang along in the kitchen to the holiday music on the radio, making the mood in the house festive.
Fran walked down the steps ten minutes before the party would start, dressed and makeup on as though she wasn’t sick. Charlie saw her and walked to her. “What are you doing, love?”
“I am here for you, though I can’t promise I’ll stay for long. I’m lightheaded and weak.”
“Oh, honey, you shouldn’t even be down here. Let me walk you—”
“I can stay a little while, Charlie,” she interrupted him. “I don’t think I’ll have supper with you. The thought of eating makes me sick.”
The doorbell rang just before two o’clock. Charlie’s boss stood on the other side with a gift for the exchange. Fran sat on the step as he answered it. “Come on in!” he greeted his boss, Vera Blackburn. She handed the gift to Charlie, who placed it under the tree.
“Lovely home you have here, Farmer,” she commented.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said. “Please, make yourself comfortable.” Penny walked in from the kitchen. “Vera, this is my mother-in-law Penny. Penny, this is my superior officer, Vera.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Penny said.
Charlie walked to Fran, who still sat on the step. “And this is my lovely wife, Frannie. However, she’s a little under the weather, so she’s keeping her distance. It isn’t because she wants to be distant.”
“The pleasure is all mine. Charlie brags about you.” Vera smiled at Fran.
The others arrived soon after, and Penny served a holiday meal with all the trimmings. Fran retreated to the master bedroom to rest and avoid spreading the flu. After supper, the guests gathered around the tree for a gift exchange. Penny received a beautiful picture painted by the wife of a co-worker, and she loved it. Charlie received a small statue of a horse, which he placed upon the mantle of the fireplace.
When the guests had left, Charlie worked to clean the house. It was spotless when he climbed the steps at nine o’clock that night. Fran hadn’t come downstairs since the first guests had arrived, so Charlie tiptoed into the bedroom. Her congested snores made it sound as though she couldn’t breathe well, and he expected another evening of warm baths, tea, and back rubs. He didn’t mind, though. He would take the flu from her and suffer it himself if it was possible.
Fran stirred when she felt Charlie get into bed beside her. A raspy cough shook her body. “What time is it, love?”
“Almost nine-thirty,” he replied. “How are you feeling?”
“Not good, babe. After the sun set, the cough returned with a vengeance. But I’ll sleep on the couch downstairs so you can rest for work.” She picked up her pillow when he touched her arm.
“No, honey, I want to take care of you. If I need to stay home tomorrow, then I will.” He kissed her forehead. “You’re burning up.” He took two pills and a glass of water and gave them to her. “Did the last two help, love?”
“A little,” she replied. “Would you stay home tomorrow? I need you.”
He kissed her forehead. “Of course, Frannie. I will do anything for you.” He called his boss to inform her he needed to take care of Fran the next day, and she granted his request. He got into his pajamas and curled up in bed next to her, hugged her close, and kissed her cheek.
“Happy Snowflake Day, darling. I love you, Frannie.”
Fran smiled and snuggled up to him. “Happy Snowflake Day. I love you, Charlie.”
Up Next: Chapter Two, Generation One
Poses By Bee
Don’t Die Daddy!
Mod The Sims
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