Springtime brought a sense of newness in Appaloosa Plains. The trees had buds that would bring new leaves. Flowers came forth from their bulbs and seeds, blossomed, and filled the air with the scent of spring. The cows in the yard were happy to graze in the small pasture, and the first chicks of the spring season were twittering in the hen house.
After the threat of the last frost had passed, Fran began the tedious task of moving the plants from the greenhouse to the garden she had prepared. Caleb came and tilled the ground for her, and in exchange for his labor, she gave him the agreed-upon barter for his family: six chicks, a dozen fresh eggs, a pound of cheese, and four jars of homemade preserves.
“You always have the best garden,” Caleb complimented Fran. “Everything is perfect, so I’m always happy to help out. And thanks for the chicks. My kids will love them!” He carried the small box to his pickup truck, placed the tiller in the back, and drove away.
Fran got ten plants in the ground on the first day, fertilized and weeded, and she felt accomplished. Penny walked outside to check Caleb’s work on the garden plot. Missy, who was out in the small muddy pasture, lumbered to Penny for a treat.
“Not today, Missy,” she said and patted her nose. The cow licked her hand, looking for the treat, but Penny opened her hand and showed her. “See? I told you I don’t have anything.” She smiled at the heifer, and Missy walked away from her. Penny swore she heard Missy huff, and she chuckled.
“Hi, Mama,” Fran looked up from her work, a small trowel in her hand. “Was Missy looking for a treat?”
Penny laughed. “When isn’t she looking for one? You’ve made some good progress out here today, I see.”
“Yes, I have ten plants in the ground, only fourteen more to go. Little Miss and Cora are providing some good fertilizer this year. It’s nice and rich. I expect some good produce this summer.”
Her mother smiled at the cows. “It’s good to know they’ve earned their keep. How much can we sell?”
“We have quite a bit in a heap behind the barn. But I’m not sure I’ll sell it. With Charlie gone, it will be good for bartering to get repairs done around the farm.” Fran was good at negotiating with the neighbors for odd jobs, and she always had something valuable to trade in return.
“You’re a good businesswoman, Fran. Much better than I ever was.” Penny took one last look around the yard. “You’ve done well out here. I’m so proud of you.”
Fran blushed. “Thanks, Mama.”
She cleaned up the yard where she had left the potting materials, raked the soil back into the garden and fed the cows a little hay. Cora was most likely in her last season to produce milk. Fran hated the idea of selling her and hoped they could place her onto a farm with a pasture where she could live out her days. For lack of space, Fran could not afford to keep a cow that wouldn’t produce. She would likely breed Missy this year and keep the calf. A heifer calf would eventually replace Cora.
Some of the chicks from the next batch of eggs would replace a third of their current brood, and the oldest hens sent for processing. It was the part of keeping livestock and feed animals that Fran found the most distasteful, but it was necessary for their survival. The only animal she had ever gotten attached to was Missy. As long as Missy lived, Fran would never send her away for that purpose.
When she walked back to the sunroom, Fran’s clothes were filthy, the knees on her jeans caked in mud and manure. Penny stopped her before she walked into the kitchen. “You’re not walking through the house like that, are you?”
“Of course not, Mama. I just came in to grab my sweatpants. I’m going to hose off my jeans in the yard and throw them into the washer.”
“Be sure you don’t get chilled, sweet pea. The well water is cold.” Penny brought the pail of milk to the stove to make cheese, her ingredients measured out and ready to go.
“I’ll be fine, Mama,” Fran yelled as she closed the back door. She took the hose from the garage and connected it to the spigot, turned it on, and sprayed the water on her legs. Penny was correct, the water was nippy, and Fran squealed and danced around in the cold spray. Penny looked out the window, saw the display, and laughed.
Fran started the laundry and dressed in warm, dry clothing before her phone rang, Charlie’s number on Caller ID. She ran up the steps and closed the bedroom door.
“Hello?” she answered breathlessly.
“It took you long enough,” he teased. “Were you with your new boyfriend?”
Fran laughed. “Nope! I was downstairs and ran to our bedroom. I got ten plants moved from the greenhouse to the garden today. Caleb came early this morning and tilled for us.”
“It sounds like you had a productive day, sweetheart,” Charlie said. “Baby, I miss you.”
“I miss you, too,” she replied. “Especially at night.”
“So tell me, did I give you a baby before I left, Frannie?” Charlie anxiously awaited news on it.
“Negative,” she said. “My cycle came last month. So much for hoping.”
“Well, it’s early yet, and we’re both young. I’m not worried if you aren’t, love.” Charlie yawned on the other end of the phone. The sky was already dark up north and three hours ahead of Fran’s time.
“I’m not worried yet. You sound tired. Is the military working you half to death up there?”
“Sixteen hour days are long, honey, I won’t deny it. There is no time for leisure. I haven’t had a day off in three months.”
“Are things calming down up there at all?” she asked. Residents in the small village of Dragon Valley had died from an unknown plague. Fran always worried about Charlie’s well-being, but he was far away from the isolated areas of the valley.
“Not much. The science lab is working with us to develop an antidote to the sickness, but so far, nothing has worked. Many people seem to be immune to it, and with their willingness to help us, it might go a long way on a remedy or preventative treatment.” What he spoke of was hardly classified information. News of the tragedy that affected Dragon Valley reached all of Simville. Hundreds of people had already perished with dozens more who became sick. The military was there to keep the peace while a cure was in development.
“You are all in our prayers, Charlie. I know you already know that.”
“We do, and we appreciate it, love. I hate to let you go, but I have to be up in seven hours. I miss you so, Frannie. I can’t wait to come home. Six more months.”
“I miss you, Charlie. Come home safely to me. I love you.”
“Oh, I love you too, sweetheart, and I promise I will. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” And they ended the call.
Over the next few days, Fran eventually got the plants moved from the greenhouse to the garden. From the first fruits of the harvest this summer, she would take seeds to start for the next season’s plants. In the meantime, she put up a small wooden barrier around the garden, mostly so the cows wouldn’t trample the plants.
The first batch of chicks she would keep hatched about a week later, and Fran moved them to an incubator to keep them warm. Even though spring had settled into the Plains, evenings were still quite chilly, and Fran feared the chicks would not survive.
That evening, Fran and Penny sat at the dining room table to discuss the future of the farm. “Mama, I’m thinking of breeding Missy this year and keeping the calf. Cora is beyond her prime.”
“That’s not a bad idea, Fran. Will you have time to raise the calf as you did with Miss? Or would you let Missy nurse it?”
“Well, I think it would be better for both Missy and the calf if we kept them together. She would still have enough milk for just us, even nursing a calf, don’t you think?”
Penny nodded. “Even if she doesn’t, it would be worth keeping them together. Milk isn’t that expensive. We could even get a milk goat.”
Fran wrinkled her nose. “Um, no, thank you, Mama. Goat milk is skunky.”
“Nonsense, child,” Penny countered. “I do admit it’s an acquired taste, but you’d get used to it.” It had been a while since Penny even considered a goat for the farm. They had more than they could handle with the cows, chickens, and bees.
“I think the calf and Missy will be sufficient. And if she has a bull, then we can sell him.” Fran couldn’t consider using a calf for food. The thought was too awful.
“I’ll leave the farm decisions up to you, Fran. You’re far better than I was about the business end of it.”
“Oh, I meant to ask if there is a handyman you like to do repairs. There is a hole in the wall in our bedroom under the window that needs repair. But Charlie’s income has been sparse since he’s been away, and I need to barter it.”
“I’ll ask around. Maybe Dory has a suggestion, child. Her son-in-law is a contractor.” Penny took the last sip of her tea and picked up the cup and saucer. “I’ll see if he needs manure or preserves.”
Fran followed her into the kitchen. “That sounds good.” She stretched and yawned. “I’m going to wait for Charlie to call. I missed him yesterday. I hope he is well.”
“Good night, Fran,” Penny called to her when they parted in the hallway. “Sweet dreams.”
“Sweet dreams, Mama,” Fran answered. She walked into her bedroom and closed the door behind her.
Fran was asleep eight hours later when her phone rang. Charlie’s number came up on Caller ID. “Hi, love,” came his tired but happy voice.
“Charlie,” she said. “Oh, how I miss you.”
“You sound like I woke you, sweetheart. Did I?”
She stretched and yawned. “You did, but that was our agreement. Call whenever you can, regardless of the time. How is it going up there?”
Charlie’s disgruntled groan told her all she needed to know. “It’s frustrating. The confined area keeps getting larger. Half the county is now under, and we’re no closer to finding a treatment for this plague. I’ve taken so much stuff, Frannie, I feel like a human guinea pig.”
“That’s not healthy, Charlie,” she said, concerned. “What are they giving you?”
“Treatments for the plague.” He was trying to put off telling her, but he couldn’t get around it. “I was exposed, Frannie. But I’m not sick, not yet anyway.”
Fran nearly dropped the phone as she collapsed on the floor and shook. “You’ve what?!”
“It’s nothing to worry about, love. It looks like I might be immune after all. But none of the treatments have been effective for the others who came with me. We’ve lost five men since Monday. It’s a nasty plague.”
“You promised you would stay safe!” she cried, half upset and half scared to death. “Please don’t come home in a bag, Charlie. I couldn’t live without you…”
“There isn’t anything to worry about yet, my darling. Not until my test results come back. But the fact that I’m still healthy bodes well for me. We were all exposed at the same time. There are four of us who show no symptoms at all. If we turn out to be immune, I’m going to volunteer for testing, donate whatever they need to figure this out. But Frannie, I promise you, I’m okay.”
She wiped her eyes with her hands and walked back to their bed. “You promise? I need you.”
“Yes, sweetheart, I promise. Imagine if I’m the one whose DNA has the cure? I’d get a raise at the very least.” He chuckled at the thought of it.
“We could use a raise. It’s a good thing that we have a garden. Your pay has been sparse since you left. We’ve had to trade for almost everything we need.”
“That shouldn’t be. I’ll look into that for you. My salary should go right to you.”
“We’re doing okay. It’s just that the house needs a few things fixed, but I have things to trade. We’ve bartered for years, Charlie. But now I’m worried about you. You should be getting hazard pay!”
He laughed. “It doesn’t quite work like that, my love. But I will get back to you about my salary. You shouldn’t be starving because I’m away.”
“We aren’t. But I’d be lying if I said our finances weren’t tight. We’re doing okay.”
It was her turn to promise. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, Charlie, I promise.”
“Oh, darling, I miss you. I’ll call you tomorrow. I’ll be in the lab tomorrow, giving tissue and blood samples. Maybe I’ll be the one who cures this thing. Wouldn’t that be awesome?”
She nodded. The only thing she wanted to hear was that Charlie would be okay. “I miss you so much. I love you. Come home safe to me.”
For the first time since he left, he didn’t say ‘I will.’ Instead, he only said, “I love you, too.”
When they hung up the phone, Fran cried until she fell asleep, terrified for her husband.
A week later, Charlie was still symptom-free, and doctors determined that he was immune to the sickness. He was one of four soldiers sent into the quarantine areas in search of the source. The four of them rummaged around the caves to the northwest in Dragon Valley for almost a week until they found a clutch of black dragon whelps. Nearly everything around the whelps, including vegetation, was dead or wilted, and scientists discovered they were the cause of the plague. They captured one alive, contained it safely, and destroyed the other five hatchlings. They brought the survivor to the science lab for study.
Charlie had not spoken with Fran in almost a week despite his promise to call her every night. But in the field where there was no access to his cell phone, it was impossible. He would spend the night back at the makeshift base outside of the science facility after going through a thorough decontamination process. His unit had already lost eight men. They couldn’t risk one more exposure.
That night, Fran paced the floor waiting for Charlie’s call like she did every night. She hadn’t eaten much in the days that followed, and she half expected deputies to show up at the front door any day. But instead, her phone rang at 1:30 am. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw his name on the display.
“Charlie!” she squealed and trembled. “Baby, is it you? I’ve been worried sick!”
“Hi, my love,” he answered, her voice a salve for his lonely soul. “We’re back from the hot zone. We think we found where the plague is coming from, Fran. We could be home soon if the facility can figure out how to cure it.”
“Please don’t tell me you’ve been out there in that stuff, Charlie! The news reports aren’t good from Dragon Valley.”
“Relax, honey. I’m completely immune. There are four of us who are, and we had no one else to go. I’ve lost eight of my brothers to the plague. They can’t risk anyone else.”
The news broke Fran’s heart. The wives and families were close, but she hadn’t seen them in weeks. “I’m so sorry,” she wept. “I know how close you all are here.”
“It’s a risk we all agreed to take going into this. It’s just not my time yet, honey. I can’t say anything about the source, but the scientists are pretty sure what we found is it.”
“Well, that’s a relief. Maybe now some of the unrest will stop.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “It’s getting tougher without you. I miss you so much.”
“Oh honey, I miss you too. But maybe soon, I’ll be home safe in your arms. And you had better believe we are not going to come up for air when I do. I promised you a baby, after all. I intend to make good on that promise.”
She giggled shyly. “Charlie!”
“I’m sorry, love. I thought when I got married that cold showers would be a thing of the past. I never foresaw being deployed anywhere.” He lowered his voice. “The water is freezing up here, too.”
“Well, I still have plenty to keep me busy here. The garden needs less work, but I’m going to breed Missy so I’ve been busy with that.”
“Missy? What about Cora, love?”
“She’s just about done, Charlie. But I’m going to find her a good home. Only if the calf is a heifer, though. If it’s a bull, we’ll hang onto Cora another season.”
“It sounds like you have things well under control there. Are you sure you truly need me there?” Charlie joked.
“More than you know,” she whispered.
“Baby, I hate to cut this short since I know it’s been a week, but I have to be up early. Say hi to your mama for me. I love you, my Frannie.” He blew kisses into the phone.
“I love you, Charlie. Come home safe to me.”
“I will, my love. I’ll call you tomorrow. I promise.”
For the first time in a week, Fran breathed a sigh of relief.
Two Months Later…
“Well, I’ll be,” Penny exclaimed as she watched the news reports out of Dragon Valley. Since his deployment, the ladies had been glued to the television and scoured the newspapers for any information.
“What’s wrong, Mama?”
“The source of the plague was a group of baby dragons in Dragon Valley. Little black ones, I guess. The news says they’re weeks away from a cure and prevention.” Fran hurried from the kitchen and sat on the arm of the sofa.
“That must have been what Charlie was talking about, Mama. He said they thought they found the source. Dragons? I’ve never heard of such a thing!”
“I haven’t either, child. Dragons were fairy tales and beasts of lore, and nothing more. I couldn’t imagine dragons anywhere in Simville.” Penny was astonished.
The news camera showed an image of the dragon hatchling, which had long since perished, on the television. “It’s almost cute,” Fran commented. “It would be cuter if it wasn’t so deadly.”
Penny shook her head. “Those folks up in Dragon Valley can keep those critters up there. We have plenty of vermin down in these parts.” Rodents had been pulling root vegetables up and gnawing on them, ruining the plants. “As it is, I’m going to get Charlie’s rifle and do some target practice with the moles in our backyard.”
“No, you won’t either, Mama. They’re only eating carrots. I can give the scraps to Miss and Cora. They’ll love it.” They both chuckled until the end of the broadcast. “Did I hear that right, Mama? Twelve of our boys died from that plague?”
She nodded her head. “I’m afraid so, child. Twelve families here in the Plains are changed forever. We need to find out how we can help.”
The revelation shook Fran to her core. One of them could have easily been Charlie, she thought. “I’ll call whoever is in charge on base to see when funerals are and how we can help. This is tragic.” Since his deployment, Fran had gotten to know most of the military families from the Plains. To an extent, their loss was also hers.
Penny hugged her daughter. “Indeed, Fran.”
Hours later, after Penny had gone to bed, Fran sat in the backyard listening to the crickets chirruping on that cool summer evening. And she realized that it had only been about a year ago that she and Charlie had reunited with one another. Of the nearly seven months they had been married, they had only been together for six weeks.
She sat under the stars and waited for her phone to ring. Though the doors were left ajar and the cows were able to enter and go as they desired, most nights, they slept in the barn. Missy lowed occasionally, and other than evening insects, it was the only sound heard. Fran was just about to go inside when her phone rang quietly.
“Hi, my love,” Charlie’s happy voice greeted her. “How’s my girl?”
“I’m better now,” Fran said. “So, we saw on the news tonight about the dragons. How crazy is that?”
“It’s pretty nuts, Fran. The dragon eggs only hatch once every seventy to ninety years. They lay dormant for decades, but they were believed to be extinct forty years ago. The town historian claimed the eggs had been destroyed, so when they began to hatch up here, it took the town quite by surprise. Of the twenty or so hatchlings we found, only six were black. There were a couple of red ones, which we destroyed, mostly green and purple, but we killed those, too.”
“Four colors? That’s odd,” Fran said. “So which ones carry the plague?”
“The black whelps carry the plague. Scientists believe the red ones breathe fire when they mature, so the townspeople didn’t allow those to survive, just in case those rumors are true. They aren’t sure of the purpose of the purple whelps, but the green ones are good for gardens. Any more eggs that we find we kill. We’ve looked for the past week or so, and I’m sure we are missing some. That is truly the frightening part. The good news is that the lab is making some great strides on a cure.”
“That is fantastic news,” she said.
“Except for the twelve in our unit that won’t be coming home in two months. For them, this news comes too late.”
Two more months, she thought. “This is insane, Charlie. I feel like you’ll never make it back home.” Fran sighed deeply. “I was ready five months ago. Mama and I are working with the families to help in any way we can. I’m heartsick so many were lost.”
“We are too, love,” Charlie said. “The villagers in Dragon Valley are quite friendly when something isn’t threatening their lives. I understand why there was so much unrest. People do crazy things when they are afraid.”
“Do you believe you found all of the eggs, Charlie? I’d hate to see this happen again anytime soon.”
“That’s the thing. There are so many caverns and caves up here nestled into the hills. It’s just impossible to know if there are any left. It’s a big job for the four of us.”
Fran watched as the moon casually crept across the eastern sky. “Charlie?”
“Yes, love?” he replied.
“Are you outside?”
“No, but I can be. What do you have in mind?”
“I’m out here in the yard watching the moon. Watch it with me? Even though we are thousands of miles apart, we can watch the moon and stars together.”
Charlie smiled. “I would love that, baby.” He walked from his tent and took a seat on an old log, looked at the moon directly overhead, took a deep breath, and exhaled. “I’m here, thinking of you, my Frannie. The sky is beautiful tonight. Millions of stars.”
“Here, too. The only light around is the moonlight. It’s so dark out here in the country.” She held the phone to the air so Charlie could hear the sounds of nature back home.
“Oh, how I miss the Plains, Frannie. And I miss you most of all. But it won’t be long and I’ll be home. Sweetheart, I need to go. But I’ll remember this moment when I miss you. Thank you for making it a little less lonely.” Charlie wiped tears from his eyes. If the guys could see him now, he’d never live it down.
“I miss you, Charlie. Come home to me safely.” She blew kisses into the phone for him.
“I will, Frannie. I promise. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she nearly whispered, and they hung up the phone. Fran sighed, stood up, and walked into the house.
The harvest was upon them and with it, the farmer’s market was in full swing. Fran spent much of her time there with their award-winning vegetables, fruits, and other products of their summer labor. Penny had pounds of aged and fresh cheeses, preserves and jams, and honey and beeswax from the hive.
Missy was carrying a calf and would deliver the following winter. Though the women were excited about the addition to the farm, a pregnant cow meant more expense through the winter months. But the garden was a wild success over the summer, and Fran’s long hours at the market paid off handsomely. With some of the money earned from the market, she would order extra feed and hay for Missy and Cora this year. The rest would go into their very empty savings account for the day Fran and Charlie were expecting their first child.
Charlie’s deployment was nearly over. The plague had been cured and the remaining townsfolk in Dragon Valley were grateful for the tireless assistance. Doctors inoculated the surviving villagers against further plague outbreaks, and with abundant doses of cure stashed away at the science facility, Dragon Valley was ready for any continued threat.
With just a week to go, Fran waited for Charlie’s return home. She was tired of working at the market but the season was nearly over. The trees around Appaloosa Plains were already beginning to turn colors and the morning chill left traces of frost in the higher elevations within the town. Her alarm went off at five that morning. Missy needed extra care and she needed to pick the last of the vegetables from the plants before going to the market. Two more days, and it would be over.
She bundled up in a jacket and hat and walked to the barn, an apple cut into quarters in her right hip pocket. Missy mooed when she saw Fran open the barn door. “Good morning, little Miss,” she chirped at the young cow. Missy nudged her hand, and Fran chuckled. “You don’t miss a trick, do you?” She dug into her pocket and took two pieces of apple for her. Cora glanced her way and lowed. “Don’t worry, Cora. Yours is coming next.”
After Fran tended the cows, she collected eggs from the coop. The chicks that had hatched earlier that year were laying eggs. Overall, Fran was pleased with the progress of their little farm for the year. The lone rooster, who ruled the coop, looked at Fran expectantly as she spread feed on the grass just outside the outbuilding. He crowed twice and scratched around. She shook her head and laughed at him.
That spring, Penny had thinned the colony of bees by half, which gave them room to grow and produce honey and wax. They were much friendlier in the less crowded hive, and Fran was not afraid to tend them any longer. Confidently, she approached the box, her gear over her face, and collected the last bit of honey they would sell at the market. Fran glanced at her watch and noted the time. Seven o’clock. By eight, she would need to be behind the vegetable stand, ready to open for business. She hurried into the house and cleaned up, grabbed a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.
Fran drove the short distance in Charlie’s pickup to the market, backed up to her stall, and unloaded the morning’s harvest. Some of the more tender fruits were kissed with frost and blemished. Those would become jams and preserves. Caleb’s wife was next to her stand, selling freshly baked bread, pies, and muffins.
“Good morning Fran,” Sunny greeted her. Susannah Bradford had gone by Sunny since childhood, a nickname that stuck with her much to her chagrin. “You have some gorgeous eggplant over there this morning!”
“Thanks, Sun,” Fran replied. “The garden is about spent, though. These are my last eggplants. I might grab a cup of coffee from the vendor and a muffin from you if that’s okay? I hardly ate breakfast this morning.”
“Psh,” Sunny said. “I’ll give you a muffin for breakfast.” Sunny walked to Fran with a wrapped blueberry muffin and handed it to her. “How is Charlie doing? Will he be home soon?”
“He’s due home in a week. They’re wrapping up their mission in the Valley. I can’t wait.” Fran unwrapped the muffin and took a bite. “Oh Sunny, this muffin is delicious!”
“Thanks, Fran. Caleb thought so, too.”
The women chatted a bit longer until the market opened. Fran took a deep breath and ignored the ache in her feet and back. Two more days, she thought, and this is finished. Penny, who had been out on her morning walk, strolled around the market and greeted neighbors and friends. Fran was happy she was still active and able to get around and was delighted to see her.
“Hi, Mama! I didn’t expect to see you here this morning.”
“Well, to be honest, child, it gets lonely in the house with you here. I thought I’d come here this morning.” Penny stood next to her only daughter, ready to help. She was very proud of the young woman Fran had become, how much she had grown and matured since she and Charlie were married.
“Many hands make lighter work,” Fran said wisely. “Besides, I will always need your help, Mama.”
When the market closed, the women were pleased with the profits from the sale. But Fran’s body ached and she wasn’t sure she could spend one more day at the market. The weather was predicted to bring a hard freeze for the evening, and Fran would harvest remaining vegetables before the frost ruined them. It meant more work, and she was already exhausted. It was nearly eleven o’clock that night before Fran was finished and fell into bed.
Her alarm awakened her at five the next morning, and she wanted to throw it against the wall. She groaned and pulled herself from the bed, walked to the window, and saw a thick layer of frost on the grass. Though she was tired, she was pleased she decided to harvest the evening before.
She started the coffee pot, put her warm coat on, and shuffled to the barn to greet Missy and Cora, their treat in her pocket. Neither of them had milk that morning. Cora had stopped producing that spring and Missy hadn’t given milk since the beginning of her pregnancy. Fran spread some hay on the grass outside the barn and opened the door, allowing them to graze once the day warmed up. Snow came early in the Plains, and the cows wouldn’t have much more time to enjoy the grass until winter showed up.
Fran collected eggs from the coop but left the bees alone. Penny could care for them when she was ready. She placed the few eggs into the refrigerator, took a cup of coffee from the pot, and prepared it. It was chillier than usual, so she went upstairs to put some layered clothing on, loaded the final harvest into Charlie’s truck, and left for the market.
The market was not as full of vendors that morning, Fran guessed the frost was a significant factor. But Sunny Bradford was already there, smiling and cheerful as she was every morning of the market. She had fresh baked cookies, muffins, and sweet bread for sale, and Fran bought a loaf of banana bread for her and Penny to enjoy.
“This is it,” Sunny said. “I hope you have a fantastic end-of-the-season day today, Frannie!”
“You too, Sun. I can’t wait to have a piece of this bread. It looks amazing.” Fran’s mouth watered in anticipation.
Penny arrived at the market with about two hours to go until closing. “Fran, Dory invited me for tea and to shop out of town for a few days. She is driving down and thought maybe I’d like to go. You don’t mind, do you?”
Fran smiled at her mother, but inside she was a little annoyed. There was still much to do, and she would need Penny’s help. “No,” she fibbed. “Of course I don’t mind, Mama. I can take care of the farm.”
Penny hugged Fran. “That’s my girl. I won’t be home when you get back. We’re leaving in an hour.”
“Have a good time, Mama,” Fran said. “I’ll be there when you come home.”
When the market closed, Fran loaded the remainder of her produce into Charlie’s pickup truck and drove it home. She was pleased the market was finished for the season, and though she wanted to take a few days off and rest, she couldn’t with Penny gone. About ten boxes of vegetables, fruits, honey, and preserves sat in the bed of the truck. But Fran was exhausted. “I can’t lift one more box today,” she said out loud. ,
She warmed up a serving of the previous evening’s supper and sat by the fireplace to eat even though it was not lit. Fran thought about the summer. It went by so quickly, and she was busy. But a large part of her was empty without Charlie by her side. She cleaned up her dishes and contemplated going to bed, but it was early. Though she was tired, she stayed up to watch television instead, and promptly fell asleep within the first hour.
She never heard the car door shut, the footsteps on the front walk and up the steps. Fran never heard the key turn in the door, or the tiptoes as he walked into the house. He smiled at her sleeping on the sofa, the television still on, the volume turned down low. Quietly, he walked to where she slept and brushed her cheek with the tips of his fingers. He leaned to kiss her, and when he did, her eyes opened.
“Charlie!” she exclaimed, tears in her eyes.
“I’m home, my love,” he said. He picked her up off the sofa, carried her upstairs to their bedroom, and closed the door behind him.
Up Next: Chapter Four, Generation One
Nouk’s Long Wavy Hair (Fran’s Hair) by Anubis360 at ModTheSims
Black dragons are available in-game with the Sims 3 Store purchase of the world Dragon Valley with the venue Duke of Bows Renaissance Faire. I took a bit of artistic license with their abilities. They cannot cause a plague in the game but they are quite the nasty little devils (depending on your gameplay tendencies.)
Custom content and poses are not my property and have been used in compliance with the TOUs.