G1 Chapter Ten – Charlie’s Nightmare

Four Months Later…

The fireplace flickered its last bit of warmth before it burned out. Fran was sound asleep, her phone in her hand. She waited on a phone call from the war zone. Charlie had talked to her hours before their most dangerous mission yet, and he promised to call her when they were safe. A dream startled her awake, and she looked around the room wide-eyed, her heart pounded wildly. 

I wish he would call me, she thought. Since he was injured, his missions were stressful for her. Fran looked at her watch. She knew she should go to bed, but she doubted she’d sleep when she was this anxious. The time was 4:52 am. 

Fran got up and walked to the kitchen to heat up water for tea. Outside, a dusting of snow sat on the ground, her plants frostbitten and nearly dead from the cold. The sunroom door desperately needed to be weatherproofed, a chilly draft made the kitchen uncomfortably cool. With winter upon Appaloosa Plains, it was a priority but her barter goods were skimpy and money was tight. With all that needed to be done around the house, she was sorry Marne hadn’t become pregnant in the summer. She could have used the help with feed and bedding for her over the colder months.

The tea kettle whistled and she turned the gas off. Fran plopped a chamomile bag into the hot water, stirred some honey into it and went back to the living room to sit. Even in her warmest clothing, she was cold, and it was much too early to go into the yard to fetch more firewood. So she sat in Charlie’s easy chair and reclined, a blanket wrapped around her. 

Fran picked up the teacup and breathed in the minty vapor of the chamomile. It was her favorite tea and it was especially wonderful with fresh honey. She sipped on the hot beverage and sighed. Another sleepless night. 

An hour later, the phone rang with Charlie’s number on the display. Finally! She answered the phone sleepily.

“Hello?”

“Hi love,” his happy voice answered. “We’re safe.” 

“It’s so good to hear your voice. And I’m happy you’re okay.” She tried not to yawn in his ear. 

“Have you been awake all this time, love?” 

“Mmhmm,” she answered. “I made some tea about an hour ago, took one sip and fell asleep, I guess because it’s ice cold.” 

“Well, you can get some rest now, honey. We are all okay.” 

“Charlie?” 

“Yes, love?” 

“Is there any chance of you coming home for our anniversary? I don’t want to spend it alone.” Their tenth anniversary was weeks away. 

“No, baby, there’s no leave, no time off at all. And I wish there was because I miss you.”

“It’s hard being here without you. It’s just me and Marne. No foal, either. She’s not expecting.” She was cold and on the verge of shivering.

“Oh sweetie, I’m sorry. I know you were hoping for a foal in the spring.” A delicate sneeze came from the other end of the phone. “Are you getting sick, Frannie?” 

“I might be. It’s pretty chilly in the house. I can’t seem to warm up.” She sniffled and tried not to sneeze again.

“Why is it so cold? Doesn’t the furnace work?” 

“It does, but the doors are drafty. I don’t want to waste the heat. The sunroom door really needs to be weather-stripped.”

“Why don’t you do it, honey? There isn’t a good reason for you to be cold like this.”

She sighed. She knew he would worry if he knew the truth, and she tried to keep it from him. “I haven’t got much to barter anymore. Without Missy and Moo, I don’t have the resources we used to have from them.” 

“What about paying for it with cash?” 

“I don’t have it. When Marne didn’t turn up pregnant, I had to order her feed and bedding for the winter months and finance it myself. It took all of my earnings for the season and then some.” 

“I don’t understand, Frannie. What about my pay?”

“I haven’t seen a dime since you’ve been gone. Money is very tight. I don’t even think I have enough firewood to go all winter long.” 

“This is ridiculous!” Charlie was angry. It was bad enough they were apart, but to know she was suffering back home was more than he could bear. “I will look into this for you.”

“It’s okay. We’ve made it through leaner winters than this,” she said. 

“No, it’s not okay, love. You shouldn’t be struggling to survive because I’m away. I will inquire and call you back soon. But I have to go now, sweetie. I love you.” He blew a kiss to her. 

“I love you, Charlie,” she replied. 

When they hung up the phone, Charlie went to his commanding officer and asked to speak with him. 

“What’s on your mind, Farmer?” he asked.

“Sir, my wife back home is starving and it shouldn’t be! Why is she not getting my salary while I’m away?” Charlie was livid.

“I don’t know.” He jotted a phone number for Charlie to call. “Call this number and check with them. If they don’t know, they can find out.” 

“Thank you, sir.” Charlie took the slip of paper and left the tent. He was on his way back to his own tent when air raid sirens sounded. Everyone scrambled for the bunkers on base. They had all done the drills, but this time it was the real thing. Airplanes flew overhead and fired upon the small outpost where the unit lived. Charlie ran and barely made it inside before the gunfire rained down upon them. But to his horror, only five other soldiers were in the bunker with him. 

“Where is everyone?” he shouted, panic in his voice. But no one had an answer. “I’m going back up!” he announced, but a younger man stopped him. 

“No, Captain. You have a wife at home that needs you. I’m going.” Before Charlie could command him to stand down, the young man opened the hatch. He was struck by a bullet and killed instantly, his body slumped into Charlie’s arms. 

“NO!” Charlie yelled and cradled the soldier. “No…” He fell to the floor and cried, the boy in his arms. “It should have been me,” Charlie wept. “It should have been me…”

*****

Fran’s phone rang again shortly after she had hung up with Charlie, his number on the display. An uneasy feeling washed over her as she picked it up and answered it.

“Hello?” 

There was terror in Charlie’s voice, the sounds of chaos in the background. “Frannie, listen to me. Our outpost is under attack. I am one of five that I am certain survived. I don’t know about the others. Please, baby, please pray harder than you ever have.”

Fran tried to scream but she couldn’t draw a breath. It was as though the air had been sucked from the room. “Charlie…” she finally whispered, she gasped for breath as fear gripped her.

“I’ll call you as soon as I can, Frannie. I love you with all I am.”

“I love you, Charlie…” She barely got the words from her lips before the line went dead.

Fran immediately called her mother-in-law. Her hands shook as she dialed the familiar number.

“Hello? Fran, is everything okay?”

“Charlie just called, his base is under attack. He is okay so far, but I don’t know how this is going to end…” Fran choked on a sob. “Pray for him, please.” 

Dolly nearly dropped the phone. “Honey, you shouldn’t be alone. Come to our house—”

“I need to be here if he calls back. Spread the word, and pray for them.” Fran lost her composure and collapsed on the floor, consumed by fright. “I have to go…” she told Dolly and hung up the phone.

Word spread quickly through Fran’s circle of friends. Within minutes of her phone call to Dolly, Sunny was at the front door of the farmhouse. 

“Fran?” she called from outside. “Fran, open up.” She picked herself up from the floor and stumbled to the door. When she saw her friend, she burst into tears. Sunny wrapped Fran in a solid embrace, let her cry and whispered words of comfort to her. 

A few minutes later when Fran was able to collect herself, she invited Sunny inside to sit. “I need to go grab some firewood,” she said, but Sunny stopped her. 

“I’ll go get it, Frannie. You just sit.” Sunny picked up the wood tote and slung it over her shoulder. In just a few minutes, she returned with a good stack of firewood, but Sunny’s face wore a look of concern. “Is that all the wood you have?”

Fran nodded. “I’m really struggling, Sun. I’m in denial to think I’m really this bad off, but I can’t afford to deny it much longer or I’ll starve to death.” She had already lost ten pounds she couldn’t afford to lose.

Sunny took out her phone and jotted a note on it. “Why is it so cold in here?” The chill went through all her layers of clothing right to the bones. 

“The sunroom door in the back is nearly exposed to the outside. The weatherstripping is gone. I know I need to have it fixed, but I don’t know how I’ll pay for it.” Fran arranged the wood in the hearth, wadded up newspaper beneath some kindling and started the fire that would warm the ground floor of the house. “Not having Charlie’s pay has been extremely difficult. And oh boy was he mad when he dragged it out of me, too.” 

“I hope not at you, sweetie. It’s not your fault.” Sunny rubbed her hands together and blew into them. “Do you mind if I start the tea kettle, Fran? I’m freezing.” 

“Not at all. The fire will be roaring in a few minutes, and we can sit by the fireplace while I wait for him to call me.” I hope he calls me, she thought. 

Sunny and Fran sat and talked for an hour but Fran was fighting to stay awake. “I hope you don’t think I’m being rude, but I can barely keep my eyes open. I was awake all night, waiting…”

“What can I do to help you?” Sunny asked. “Can I feed Marne for you, or collect eggs from the coops before I go?”

Fran smiled. “I’d love it if you’d gather eggs for me. And please take them home with you. I have plenty—”

“No, I’m not taking food from you.” Sunny noticed how thin Fran had gotten. “Please take care of yourself, if not for you then for Charlie. He will need you when he comes home.”

Fran nodded. “Thank you. I will do better. Please let Dolly know I’m okay?”

Sunny sighed. Fran wasn’t okay and she wasn’t keen on lying. “I’ll tell her, Frannie. I’ll be by later to check on you, and call me when you hear from Charlie.”

Fran had tamped the fire out and wrapped her sweater around her shoulders. “I will.” She thanked her friend and watched her walk to the yard to feed the chickens. Sunny would leave the eggs in the garage refrigerator for now. 

Fran climbed the steps with tired, heavy legs and somehow made it to bed before she fell asleep.

*****

Hours had passed, and Charlie still clung to the body of the young man who had sacrificed his life. The quiet outside was eerie but no one was brave enough to open the hatch to peer outside. One of the privates under Charlie’s direct command finally tapped him on the shoulder. 

“Captain? Are you okay, sir?”

He shook his head. “Not really.” He set the boy’s body down on the floor of the bunker and before he got up, he took the tag from his neck chain. “I guess I have a phone call to make.”

He stopped at the hatch and listened for sounds, any indication that there was life outside the bunker. When he cracked the door open to look, the scene above ground was utter devastation. The camp had been destroyed and he doubted anyone who had stayed above had survived. The only noises were sounds of nature, the occasional cicada and a wolf baying in the distance. 

He placed his rifle at the opening of the hatch and peered out, ready to fire at any hostiles within the camp, but nothing stirred. Carefully he opened the door and emerged from the bunker. All living quarters were decimated, not one tent remained intact. There were no signs of life anywhere, but Charlie walked to his CO’s tent to find him lying dead just feet from what was the tent door. One by one, he searched the bunkers but only found two more survivors.  Out of a unit of seventy-five men, only seven survived. Charlie was now the highest-ranking soldier. 

He walked to his tent and dug through the wreckage. The only item that survived was his prayer book with their wedding photo inside. He clutched the book to his chest, his eyes looked to the heavens. Charlie fell to his knees with tears in his eyes and he prayed. 

The survivors had nowhere safe to sleep for the night so they planned on staying in the bunker until help could arrive. They salvaged what little food they could from the mess tent and brought it with them. Charlie remembered his phone call to Fran and knew she had to be worried sick. So he dialed her number on his cell phone, but the line was dead.

“Dammit!” he exclaimed. “The attack must have taken out communications.” This posed another problem. With radios destroyed and the cell towers down, they were stuck with no backup, no way to convey a message to the higher-ups that they were compromised. They would need to wait for a reconnaissance mission to find them. The night would be long and lonely, and Charlie worried about Fran. 

*****

Halfway through the night, Charlie heard voices shouting outside the bunker. As the Captain, he listened for the safe word at the hatch. And when it was spoken, he opened the door, his weapon at his side. “Captain Charles Farmer,” he said. “Identify yourself.” 

“Major Boyd Sturm, Air Force. Are you the only survivor, Captain?” 

“No sir, there are six others in the bunker. But I am the highest-ranking survivor. The others are privates.” 

“There are only seven of you alive? How many men in this unit, Captain?” 

“We were seventy-five strong, sir.” 

Major Sturm signaled for the transport to approach. “We’ll retrieve the dead in the morning. Come with us, and we’ll get you out of here. Why didn’t you radio for help?” 

“Our communications were taken out, even the cell tower. We had no way to contact anyone. My wife is waiting on my phone call, and I would imagine she has given up on me by now.” 

“When we get back to our outpost, you can contact loved ones. For now, let’s get you guys out of here.”

The evacuation took minutes and the seven survivors of the previous day’s attack were on their way to safety. 


Fran’s phone rang early the next morning. It was not Charlie but Sunny Bradford on the line. She nearly didn’t answer it but she reached for the phone anyway. Her voice was tired and she felt awful. Fran hadn’t slept well nor had she eaten anything since Charlie had called the previous morning. 

“Hello?” 

“Fran?” 

She sighed. “Yes. Hi Sunny.” 

“Have you heard from Charlie? I’ve been worried.” 

“No, not a peep. I’ve almost resigned myself to the idea that he’s gone, though I don’t know why I haven’t heard anything from the base here.” Fran sniffled and wiped tears from her eyes.

“Well, maybe no news is good news, Frannie. Why don’t I pick you up and we’ll go to breakfast together, my treat? You shouldn’t be alone.” 

She was going to decline, but if there was one thing she knew about Sunny Bradford, it was that she seldom took no for an answer. “I need to shower first. Give me about half an hour?” 

Sunny smiled. “I can do that. Caleb is home with the kids, so I have some time for myself. I want to spend it with you.” 

For the first time since Charlie’s frantic call the previous morning, Fran smiled. “I’m touched.”

“Well, go get ready, and I’ll let myself in.”

Fran was in the shower upstairs when Sunny opened her front door with the key Charlie had given her. She tiptoed into the kitchen and unpacked two bags of groceries into the refrigerator and pantry, folded the bags and placed them into her purse. “Fran,” she called up the stairs, “I’m here.” 

“Oh, hi Sun. I’ll be down in a few minutes,” Fran said as she dried her hair. She was already dressed in a warm sweater, her jeans, and cowboy boots.

Five minutes later, she descended the stairs. “I have my cell with me, just in case. I’m ready.” 

“Let’s go,” Sunny replied. “I just need to tell Caleb something I forgot about the kids.” She typed a message to her husband and placed the phone in her bag.

After Sunny’s car drove away from the Farmer house, Caleb and a co-worker pulled up to the house and parked in the driveway. In the back of his pickup were two cords of wood and the materials to completely weatherproof the doors and windows in the whole house. Two minutes behind them was a group of friends who would complete the work while the women were away from the house. Sunny arranged it all and Caleb paid for it, the labor donated by the men who would complete the job. Everyone in town adored Fran and no one wanted to see her fail when Charlie was away. 

*****

Charlie was awakened by a nightmare, the events of the previous day replayed in his head. Sweat was beaded on his forehead, his heart pounded as he sat up. The sun was up and the outpost bustled with familiar sounds. He got up and dressed, and wondered why he hadn’t been briefed on any upcoming missions. The CO for this unit was in his tent, and Charlie approached to announce himself. 

“Come in, Farmer,” he summoned Charlie inside. He stepped in and stood at attention. “At ease, Captain. What can I do for you?”

“Sir, I’m curious. What will happen to the survivors of my unit? Will we be absorbed into a different unit?” Charlie asked.

The commanding officer sat back in his chair. “You boys have seen enough action this deployment, Captain. I’m waiting on confirmation, but I believe the seven of you will return home within the month.”

“Sir, with all due respect, I am willing to serve out my time. Just tell me where to go—” 

The CO shook his head. “It’s not my decision, Farmer. That decision comes from the top.” He walked to Charlie and held out his hand. “I know you’re holding the tag of a young man who took a bullet for you. Let me make that call for you. Call your family and let them know you’re okay.”

Charlie tried to remain stoic, but a lump formed in his throat. “Thank you, sir.” He took the tag from his pocket and placed it into the CO’s hand. “Please let his family know he died a hero.”

“You’re all heroes, Farmer. You’re dismissed.” Charlie turned and left the tent. Once he stepped outside, he wiped a single tear from his eyes.

He walked back to the tent where he had been assigned and took his prayer book from under his pillow. Still tucked inside was their wedding photo. He took it out and looked at it, traced Fran’s image on the paper and wept. He nearly made her a widow, and he seriously considered not re-enlisting when his time was up. 

He took his phone from his pocket and dialed her number. It rang until voicemail answered it. Rather than hang up, he waited to leave a message:

Frannie, my love, I’m sorry I didn’t call yesterday as I promised. I will explain when I talk to you later. I have some news, which I’ll tell you when we speak. I’m safe, and I will call you. Oh, how I love you my darling, and I can’t wait to hear your voice.

His time was free, so he laid down to rest and waited for the time when he would call his love. 

*****

Fran didn’t see the missed call on her phone until she and Sunny had left the diner. But she listened to the message with tears in her eyes. She clutched the phone to her chest and sighed relief.

“He is safe!”

“That is awesome news,” Sunny replied and hugged her friend. She knew Caleb and the guys needed just a little more time at the house so she flooded the engine of her car purposely. “I can’t get this thing to start,” she feigned frustration. “Let me call Caleb.” She took her phone from her purse and dialed his number.

“Hello?” he answered. 

“Caleb, I can’t start my car,” Sunny said. 

“We need twenty more minutes and we’ll be finished,” he replied. “I’ll be there.” 

“Thanks, love,” she said and hung up the phone. “Twenty to twenty-five minutes, Fran. Do you need to be somewhere today?” 

“No, just back home to care for Marne.” They both went back into the diner to sit and stay warm while they waited for Caleb to rescue them. 

Half an hour later, Caleb appeared in his old pick up truck. He got out and tipped his hat to Fran. “How’s Charlie? Have you heard from him?”

Fran nodded her head. “He’s safe. I don’t know anything else, but he said he would call tonight.”

“Good to hear,” Caleb replied. “What’d you do, Sunny?” he mock scolded her, his hands on his hips. “I told you when the engine floods to hold down the gas pedal.” 

She smiled and winked at her husband. “You’re right, Caleb. I’m sorry I made you come all this way when I know you’re busy at home.” She hugged him and gave him a peck on the cheek. “I’ll see you when I get back.” 

“Well, alright,” he nodded. “Please tell Charlie he’s in our prayers, Frannie.” Caleb tipped his hat again and climbed into the cab of his truck. Fran nodded and waved as he drove away.

Sunny started the car with ease and blushed at Fran. “I guess we’re good to go. Are you ready?” 

“Yes, and thank you for this distraction, Sunny. I needed some time away from the house. Someday, it will be my treat.” Fran sat beside Sunny in the front seat of the car and buckled herself in. 

“You’re welcome,” she replied. Sunny couldn’t wait for Fran to see the work Caleb and his friends had done in her home, and the pile of firewood stacked by the barn. 

Fran turned the key in the front door, Sunny right behind her, and the first thing she noticed was a blast of warm air. Caleb had stacked firewood inside the house by the fireplace. Fran looked around in amazement. “What’s going on?” she asked. 

“Caleb and his co-workers came and weather-stripped all your doors and windows, and we had two cords of wood stacked outside for you to carry you through the winter. Fran, you broke my heart yesterday and I can’t let you fail when Charlie is serving the country overseas.” Fran started to cry, and Sunny embraced her. “You’re my best friend, and I can’t let anything happen to you. Caleb and I are thriving, and it kills me to see you struggling so.” 

“Sunny, I don’t know what to say!” Fran sniffled and hugged her again. “Thank you so much.” 

“It was our pleasure.” Sunny smiled at Fran once more. “I really need to get home. Tell Charlie we both said hi, and we love him.” 

“I will,” Fran replied, still in shock. 

*****

It was later that afternoon when Fran’s cell phone rang again, this time with Charlie’s number on the display. She was very happy to see it. He heard the smile in her voice when she said hello.

“Hi, love,” he greeted her. “It is so good to hear your sweet voice, Frannie.” 

“Hi, Charlie,” she replied. “I thought I’d never get to hear your voice again. Tell me you’re safe. I need to hear it.” 

“Oh honey, I’m definitely safe. But so many are not coming home with us. We lost sixty-eight men in that attack yesterday.” Charlie choked back a lump of emotion that took up residence in his throat. 

“Oh, Charlie, no! Sixty-eight?” 

“I still can’t believe it myself. But the enemy must have followed our caravan back to our position and planned the ambush. The ones who didn’t make it to safety never stood a chance. It was horrific.” He shook his head at the memory of it. 

“So what happens now with so many casualties?” 

“Well, that’s part of what I needed to tell you, honey. The seven of us who survived are coming home. I’m not finishing my deployment, but I don’t think we’ll be out of here before a month is up.” 

“I’m so happy that you’re coming home!” Fran squealed. “I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.” 

Charlie nodded. “I’m pretty done too, love. I’ve seen more death than I ever cared to see, on both sides.” 

“I have some good news too, Charlie. Sunny came and got me for breakfast this morning, and while I was gone, Caleb came in and did repairs on the doors and windows. And they brought me two cords of wood.” Fran smiled. “We are so blessed, Charlie. We have such wonderful friends.” 

“I don’t know how I’ll ever repay their kindness,” Charlie said. “I’m so thankful they are taking care of you.” 

“They wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t called yesterday morning. I called your mama after I hung up with you, and she must have called Sunny and Caleb. She was at the house in minutes. She saw how little firewood I had stocked, and felt the chill in the house. She even noticed I’ve lost a little weight. She stocked the fridge and pantry with food, Charlie.” She wiped a tear from her eyes. “She and Caleb amaze me.” 

“Why didn’t my mom go sit with you?” Charlie began to get angry. In every possible way, they let him down when it came to Fran’s well-being. 

“She wanted me to go to their house, but I needed to be by the phone, just in case.” 

“So her solution was to pass it off to someone else.” He spoke through gritted teeth. 

“Charlie, don’t be angry with them. They have their own lives—”

“You don’t understand, love. I asked them specifically to watch over you, and from everything you’ve told me they haven’t done what I’ve asked of them. This doesn’t make me happy.” The CO appeared in the door of his tent and motioned to Charlie. “Sweetie, I need to go. I’ll call you soon. I promise.” 

“Stay safe, Charlie. I can’t wait until you come home. I love you.” 

“I love you, my Frannie. I’ll keep you updated.” With a kiss, they ended the phone call.


Fran sat in the pickup truck she had purchased months earlier, parked at the municipal airport where she waited for Charlie’s plane to land. The flight was minutes away according to the information he had given her. He was the last of the survivors in his unit to come home and the wait was excruciating for both of them. 

The snow was deep and it fell heavily in Appaloosa Plains, and she hoped the flight wouldn’t be diverted to another airport. But nearly right on time, the bright landing lights of the aircraft appeared in the sky through the heavy snow. Excitement built up inside her chest, and she felt as though she’d scream. 

The plane taxied closer to the airport and when it stopped the door opened on the opposite side from where Fran stood. She saw his feet jump from the steps into snow that was ankle-deep, and then walk behind the aircraft to speak with someone. From the rear of the plane, he appeared, and Fran squealed when she saw him. 

Charlie saw her waiting for him, and he fought every instinct to run into her arms. Step by step he walked away from the plane until he cleared the engines, then he stopped and stood at attention. “At ease!” came the command, and when he heard it, Charlie ran toward her.

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She stood and waited, her face in her hands. Finally, she couldn’t wait for another second and ran toward him. When she reached him, he picked her up and spun her around, her arms wrapped around his neck.

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They both wept as they clung to one another, and he placed her back down into the snow.

“Hi love,” he said just as casually as he would have on a normal day. He looked into her green eyes, the ones he missed desperately and kissed her. “Oh honey, it’s so good to hold you.” 

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“I love you, Charlie,” she whispered into his ear. “Let’s go home.” 

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Up Next: Chapter Eleven, Generation One


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G1 Chapter Nine – War Is Hell On The Homefront

Two months later…

Marne was offloaded from the trailer that brought her from the equestrian center and led to the pasture. Fran was happy to see her and she greeted the mare with a carrot and a hug. In a month they would know if the breeding was effective. Marne nickered at Fran when she took the halter from her and let her run. In a while, she would spend time grooming her, though Fran was positive she was already cared for. 

She walked back to the gate where Oliver Farnam waited for her. “Thanks for taking care of my baby. I sure did miss her around here.” 

Oliver shook her hand. “She’s always a pleasure to have. It was no problem at all. Were you able to find homes for your heifer and cow yet?” 

Fran nodded. “The Bradfords took both of them. Caleb has more acreage than we do here, and Missy can live her days out there. The kids adore her.” 

“Great to hear!” He closed up the back of the trailer and placed his hat back on his head. “Have you heard from Charlie?” 

She nodded. “He’s okay. I’m expecting him to call sometime this weekend.” 

“Give him our best, and let him know we’re praying for their safe return.” Oliver hugged Fran and kissed her cheek. “If you need anything, let me know.” 

“Thank you, Oliver, I will.” She closed the gate and walked back to the barn. She needed to spread bedding in Marne’s stall before she was stabled for the evening. Pitchfork by pitchfork, a layer of straw covered the floor of the stall. Fran turned the water on and filled her trough and set a brand new salt lick inside the door. It sure was good to have Marne back home. 

The summer market would be in full swing soon and the plants were well established and on the way to a beautiful harvest. For now, the garden needed little attention, just an occasional weed pulled. The bees were healthy and produced an abundance of honey and beeswax. The coop had a batch of chicks, six of which would replace hens from her current brood. But instead of sending them for processing, she would sell them to another farmer in the neighborhood. With just herself to feed, the need for food was greatly reduced and she was able to live modestly.

With Marne bedded down in her stall for the night, she walked back through the sunroom and into the kitchen, stripped her dirty clothes from her body and walked to the downstairs bathroom for a shower. She had finished drying her hair when the phone rang, and she ran to answer it.

“Hello?” 

“Hi love,” Charlie’s voice greeted her. “Oh honey, I miss you.” 

“Charlie!” her happy voice replied. “I miss you more than you know.” 

“How is everything there? Is Marne home yet?” 

“She is!” Fran answered happily. “She came home today. I’ll know in about a month if we’re expecting a foal next year.” 

“That’s great, honey.” He hoped she would keep talking. How he missed her voice. “How are you getting along?” 

“The plants are good, Missy and Moo are all settled in with Caleb and Sunny, and—”

“No, honey, I mean how are you doing?” 

Tears filled her eyes. “I’m lonely. I miss you. I am afraid for you, but I pray for you every day. I miss your kisses.”

Charlie sighed. “I miss everything about being home, especially you. Look, I can’t talk much longer. Tell me you love me, Frannie. I need to hear it.” 

“I love you… I love you… I love you,” she said. “Promise me, Charlie. Promise me you’ll be safe.” 

“I promise, Frannie. I love you. I love you. I love you, darling.” She wept as the call ended. 

Fran warmed up leftovers from a meal Sunny brought for her the previous day, but she only picked at it, her mind on Charlie. His request for her profession of love usually meant he was headed into a dangerous situation, and it was all she could think about. She stood from the table and picked up her supper plate, carried it to the kitchen and covered it. Maybe this would make a good lunch tomorrow, she thought. 

She walked to the doors and locked up, turned out the lights and walked upstairs to her bedroom. Fran turned the covers down on the bed and changed into her pajamas. And she kneeled down on the side of the bed, folded her hands and prayed for Charlie’s safety. 

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“Keep him safe,” she prayed. “Please, keep him safe and let him come home to me.” When she was finished, she climbed into their bed and wept until she fell asleep.


The phone rang well before the sun appeared in the eastern sky the next morning, and Fran’s heart skipped a beat. “Hello?” she said with a shaky voice.

“Hi love,” Charlie greeted her. 

“Oh thank goodness!” she cried. “You’re safe.” 

“I promised you, honey. But I knew I had to call you. Our mission was a success.”

“I did as you asked me, Charlie. I prayed. I love you.”

“I love you, my Frannie. I have to go, but I’ll call you next week, darling.” They blew kisses over six thousand miles and hung up. Fran took a deep breath, exhaled sheer relief and cried.

A few hours later she awakened to a new day. Fran walked outside to the yard. She brought Marne from the barn, slid the bridle over her head, her racing saddle on her back and climbed atop the young mare. Marne nickered at Fran, who leaned forward and patted her neck. “Let’s go for a quick ride, shall we baby girl?” She took the reins in her hand and nudged the horse to a trot, and with a gentle prod, Marne cleared the fence easily. They rode toward the Bradford farm, about three blocks from home. 

Sunny had just put her children on the bus for school when Fran approached her. “Hey Sun!” she greeted her friend. 

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“You have her back!” Sunny exclaimed. “I know how you missed her.” 

“I did. I won’t be able to ride her much if she is pregnant, so I thought I’d get a ride in this morning.” She patted Marne’s neck and the mare whinnied.

“Have you heard from Charlie?” Sunny asked.

“I did, both last night and this morning very early. He had a mission last night. He has a tell when he thinks something might go wrong.” 

“How is he?” 

Fran smiled. “He’s okay. The one thing he asks me to do every time I talk to him is to pray. It’s the one thing I do every morning and every night without fail.”

“Your mama would be so proud of you, Fran, to see you grow in your faith. You’re doing her and Charlie proud.” Sunny took her hand and squeezed it. “Are you ready for the market?” 

“I will be. The plants have some beautiful fruit on them this year. I’m counting on a good market season. It’s been two months and I haven’t seen a dime of Charlie’s pay since he left.”

“That doesn’t sound right. Did you ask about it, Fran?”  

“There is no one on base to ask. They’re all gone overseas with the unit.” 

“If you need anything, let us know. We’re not going to let you fail when Charlie is away serving our country.” 

“Thank you, Sun. I appreciate that.” Fran felt a hunger pang and realized she hadn’t had breakfast yet. “I really should get home. I have much to do today. But before I go, how are Missy and Moo?” 

“We adore both of them. Missy is quite the character. I can see why it pained you to rehome her, but I’m glad you entrusted her to us.” 

“I’m happy you could take them. I knew they would be safe on your farm.” Fran picked up Marne’s reins and waved to Sunny. “I’ll see you soon!”

Fran dismounted before she got to the fence, took the lead and guided Marne through the gate into the yard. She slipped her bridle and saddle off and her padded halter on, gave her a pat on the shoulder and walked back toward the house.

She warmed up a plate of pancakes she had made days earlier and a cup of fresh coffee. As she ate, her thoughts went back to Charlie. How much she missed him. How much she worried for his safety. How much she looked forward to his return.

*****

In a week, Fran would turn thirty, and she would spend her birthday alone for the first time in her life. She had no plans other than to spend it in the garden preparing for the season’s first harvest and market season. Her best friend Clara had long since moved away from Appaloosa Plains to follow her husband’s job prospects. Caleb and Sunny had their family. No, it would just be Fran, Marne and the garden for her thirtieth birthday.

Fran had just finished cleaning up breakfast dishes when she heard a knock at the front door. She wiped her hands on her apron and ran to answer it. Dolly Farmer stood there to greet her. 

“Hi sweetheart!” her mother-in-law said with a hug and a smile. “How are you doing over here?” 

“Everything is on schedule so far for the summer. Marne came home yesterday, and we’ll know in a month if we’re expecting a foal next spring. The plants are—”

“No, Frannie, how are you doing here by yourself?” Fran surmised she must have spoken to Charlie. It was the first time she’d seen either of her in-laws since Charlie left.

Fran shook her head. “I’m lonely. I miss Charlie, and his phone calls home are always short. But I’m proud of him.” 

Dolly smiled. “We are too. Look, Frannie, do you need anything at all? Is there something we can do for you?”

“No, but thank you,” she replied. “I do need to get the truck looked at someday soon. Charlie was going to do that, but he found out about the deployment the very next day. Tomorrow never came for that. I will need something before the market season comes around.” 

“Georgie is good with his hands. I’ll send him over to look at it, sweetheart. How have you been getting around?” 

“Well, until I bred Marne, I was riding her into town for short errands. If she’s expecting, I won’t be able to ride her for long. But she couldn’t carry boxes of produce on her back anyway.” Fran suddenly realized they both stood in the front doorway, and she was embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, Dolly. Please come in and sit! I’ll make some tea—”

Dolly took her hand and stopped her. “That’s not necessary, I can’t stay anyway. I was just headed out this way and thought I’d stop to see how you’re doing.” She hugged Fran and stepped back. “I’ll send George over to look at the pickup. If he can’t fix it, at least you’ll know where you stand with it.”

“Thank you,” Fran replied. “I’ll leave the back door open so he can get into the garage, though I should be home.”

“I’ll let him know. You will tell us if you need anything, won’t you?”

Fran nodded. “Of course.” The women hugged and Dolly left. 


Five days later, a package arrived in the mailbox for Fran. It didn’t take long to recognize the handwriting on the label or the address from which it came. Charlie had decorated the outside of the package with stickers and stamps, anything he could find at the bazaar when he packed it. The postmark revealed it had been mailed nearly six weeks prior. With a smile on her face, she carried her treasure into the house and up the steps to their bedroom. She was aching to know what was inside the box, but she wanted to wait until Charlie called to open it. 

Sunny would be there at any moment to take Fran to look at a used pickup truck. Charlie’s old junk was deemed unrepairable, so she sold it to the junkyard for parts. With a few hundred simoleons in her hands, she hoped to negotiate a deal for a working truck, one that would last for the season. When Charlie returned home, together they would purchase a newer one in better condition. 

The horn sounded outside and Fran took her purse and locked the front door. As she ran for Sunny’s car, she waved.

“Hi, Fran!” Sunny greeted her. 

“Hi Sun,” Fran replied. “Thank you for doing this for me. I hope this will work for the season at the very least.” She gave the address to Sunny and they drove away from the Farmer home. 

They arrived at the farm within five minutes and both women got out of the car. The truck sat in the grass off the driveway, a faded “For Sale” sign in the windshield. An older gentleman came from the farmhouse, walked toward them and waved. “Are you Fran?” he asked.

She nodded. “I am. Is it okay if I take a look at the truck? Does it run?” 

“It does. In fact, my son tuned it up last week. It purrs like a kitten.” The man took keys from his pocket and threw them to Fran. “Start her up and see what you think.” 

The truck was much older than the one she had sold, but it was in remarkable condition for a vehicle its age. She opened a creaky door and hopped into the driver’s seat, put the key in the ignition and turned it. The old truck fired up on the first try and Fran smiled. “You’re right. It does purr like a kitten.” She left it running and jumped out of the cab, ran her hands over the bumpers and checked the tires. The bed was open but had removable rails for hauling her produce to market. “How much did you say?” she asked him.

“Well, that depends,” he answered her. “Your husband is the Farmer boy, right?” Fran nodded. “He’s fighting overseas with my grandson, Phillip.” The old man thought for a moment. “How about one hundred?” 

“No, that’s not enough—” she tried to protest, but he took her hand. 

“I don’t really need the money, darlin’. One hundred is more than enough.” He smiled at her. “You know, military families take care of each other, Mrs. Farmer. Some day, when you can, pay it forward to another deserving family. That’s all I really ask.” 

Fran was amazed. “I really don’t know what to say. Thank you.” 

“You’re welcome,” he replied. “We’ll see you at the market in a few weeks.” 

She smiled and nodded. “Yes, you will.” She took five smaller notes from her purse and paid him, got into the truck and drove it home. 

*****

After supper, Fran sat in the living room with a book when her phone rang, Charlie’s number on the ID. She answered it, a smile on her face. 

“Hi, honey,” he said. “How’s the love of my life?”

“The same as always, Charlie. Lonely. Missing you. Incredibly proud of you. How are you doing over there?” 

“The conflict is still going on. I think it will be for a little while yet.”

She remembered the package that arrived that morning and smiled. “I got a pretty box in the mail this morning,” she said. “And I have some other news, too.” 

“Did you open the package? Did you like it?” 

“I haven’t yet. I was hoping I could open it while I’m talking to you.” She was on her way up the stairs to retrieve it.

“I only have a few minutes, love. Do you have it with you?” 

“I do now,” she said. She sat on the bed, the box in front of her. “Can I, Charlie?” 

“Yes, love. Quickly.” 

She took a pair of scissors and cut the tape, opened the box and found a smaller box inside with a letter. The box wasn’t wrapped so she tugged it open to find a silver neck chain with a cross pendant on it. “Oh Charlie, where did you find this? It’s beautiful!” 

“There’s a bazaar in the town and a silversmith made the pendant. I thought of you. I’m sorry I’m not there for your special day, my love. Happy birthday.” He blew kisses on the phone. 

Fran choked up. “Thank you.” 

“You said you had other news? I need to go in one minute. Can you tell me quickly?”

“Yes. I bought a new-to-us truck today. It’s older but very nice. Clean, in good condition, it runs perfectly.” 

“That’s great, sweetie! How much?” 

“One hundred.” 

Charlie’s mouth dropped open. “Are you sure you didn’t steal it?” 

She chuckled. “You are stationed with his grandson, Phillip,” she said. Charlie knew exactly who he was. “He gave me a deal on it and wants us to pay it forward someday.” 

“That is incredible. Listen, baby, I have to go. I love you, Frannie. I’ll call again soon. Keep praying for us.” 

“I will Charlie. I love you, too.” They blew kisses one last time and hung up the phone. She turned her attention to the silver necklace. The chain was delicate, the pendant was intricate in design. She removed it from the box and clasped it around her neck. She stood, walked to the mirror in their bedroom and admired it. How she loved that man.

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After the phone call, Fran closed up the house and locked the doors. Marne was already stabled for the night, fed, watered and happy. So she carried herself up the steps to their bedroom, changed into her pajamas and kneeled on her side of the bed like she did every night. Fran clasped her hands together and spoke quietly. When she was finished, she climbed into bed and cried.


On the morning of her birthday, Fran began her day like she did every other day. Marne was happy to see her and nickered at her softly when she opened the stall door. “Good morning, sweetheart,” Fran said and patted Marne’s neck. “How’s my girl?” She wrapped her arms around the horse’s neck and smiled. “Would you like to go for a ride?” Gently, she patted Marne’s nose and took the bridle from the hook it hung upon in the tack room, slipped her halter off and the bridle on. Fran’s fingers buckled the leather strap around her head and led her from the barn. 

Once she was sitting on Marne’s back, she nudged her forward and over the short fence. They rode together at a trot toward the equestrian center. There was no hurry and she had nowhere to go. It was just a woman and her horse moving together as one, the beautiful beast under Fran was strong and agile. About a mile from the house, she slowed Marne down to a walk and allowed her to graze while she rested. From there, they continued down toward the center. 

Oliver Farnam was outside the center with the stallion that had been bred with Marne. Fran admired the stallion, chestnut-colored with a stark white blaze and stockings on his front two legs. He was a beautiful animal, and Fran dismounted to take a closer look at him. 

“Good morning, Fran,” Oliver greeted her. “How’s our girl?” 

Fran held tight to Marne’s reins. “She’s perfect, actually. We’re just enjoying a morning ride together. She’s a magnificent horse. Is this the sire?” She pointed to the stallion whose reins he held.

“Yes,” Oliver confirmed. “We actually just acquired him from the old owner. He will be here permanently.” 

Fran wrinkled her nose. “What does this mean for the breeding contract?” 

“Nothing changes, Fran. As the new owner, I will honor the terms of the contract. As soon as we find she is expecting, the contract is valid and active as it was signed. So don’t worry about that.” 

“Well that’s a relief,” Fran sighed. “When can we do the ultrasound on her to check? It has to be coming up soon?” 

“In another week. She’s five weeks out from being bred. I don’t have to tell you that Sophie and I are hoping for a foal, and I know you are too.” 

She nodded her head and patted Marne on the neck. “I am. I know what a champion racehorse could do for us.” Marne paced uncomfortably at Fran’s side and nudged her arm. “I guess that’s my cue to go back home, Oliver. I guess I’ll see you next week after the doctor gives us news about Marne.” 

Oliver hugged her and kissed her cheek softly. “That sounds like a good plan.” He gave Fran a leg up to mount Marne. “Enjoy your day, my dear.” 

“Thank you, Oliver,” Fran waved as she turned Marne back toward the farm. 

When she arrived home, there was a message on her answering machine, so she listened to it as she brewed a cup of coffee.

Fran, this is Dolly. Honey, we know it’s your birthday, and Georgie and I would love to take you for supper tonight to celebrate you. Please call me when you get home. We love you.

This is unexpected, Fran thought. She prepared her coffee, sat down in Charlie’s chair and dialed her mother-in-law’s number. She let it ring six times before the answering machine picked it up, so she left a message.

Dolly, this is Fran. I got your message, and I thank you for the birthday wishes. I should be home all day. I guess I’ll talk to you later.

After breakfast, Fran took the phone handset and brought it to the barn while she groomed Marne. She took each of the mare’s feet into her hand and cleaned the dirt and muck from her hooves, brushed her beautiful cream coat and braided her mane. When she was finished, she fastened Marne’s halter over her head and allowed her to graze in the pasture.

Fran moved to the coop and fed the brood. The chicks had grown considerably since they had hatched just a few shorts weeks prior. “I don’t need any more chicks,” she said to the rooster as she collected eggs from the nests. The bird looked at her and crowed, and it made her laugh.  The crotchety old bird pecked at the feed she had thrown onto the dirt outside the door. As Fran finished her chores, the phone still hadn’t rung. 

Since she was home alone, she stripped her dirty clothes off in the sunroom and left them, walked to the bathroom upstairs and showered. She smelled of dirty horse and barn, and it wasn’t a pleasant aroma. The shampoo lather cleaned her flaming red strands of hair as she rinsed the soap from her head. The water looked a bit dirty and she laughed. When she was finished she sat on the bed, a towel wrapped around her head and body while she air-dried. I’ll just lay here a while, she thought to herself. Her eyes were heavy and sleep overtook her quickly. 

Hours had passed and the sun was nearly ready to set in the western sky, and Fran hadn’t heard from Dolly all day. While she thought it strange it didn’t occur to her that something could be wrong. She took the towel from her now dried hair and laughed. Locks of her hair stuck up every which way and Fran wrinkled her nose. It was too late to fix it, so she put it in a messy ponytail and got dressed. 

Marne was still out in the pasture grazing when Fran opened the back door. “Marne!” she called to the mare, and she trotted to Fran obediently. “That’s my good girl!” she praised the horse. A closer look revealed that her grooming earlier was undone. Marne’s white mane was a dusty tan, the same color as the dirt on her back. “What will it take to keep you clean, hmm?” she laughed. The air was nippy for an early summer evening, so she closed the barn door behind her to keep the draft to a minimum. “Good night, sweet girl,” she said.

Fran had been tucked into bed for a few hours when her phone rang. It alarmed her since she wasn’t expecting a call from Charlie. But when his ID came up on the phone she smiled. 

“Hello?” she answered.

“Happy birthday, love,” he said. “How was dinner with Ma and Pa?” 

She stretched and yawned. “I got a message from your mama earlier this morning, but she never returned my call so we didn’t go.” 

“Would you go check on them for me? That isn’t right.” Suddenly, Charlie was worried. 

“Tonight? It’s almost three in the morning here, Charlie.” 

He huffed in frustration. “You’re right. I don’t want you out of the house this late by yourself. I keep forgetting how much ahead we are on time. So I suspect your birthday was less than wonderful.” 

“Oh, no, it was wonderful! I went for a ride to the equestrian center and met with Oliver. He bought the sire to Marne’s foal if she has one. He is beautiful! And then I rode home and groomed her, took care of the chickens, took a shower and fell asleep until just before dark.” 

“I can’t tell if you’re being serious about your birthday being wonderful,” he laughed. 

“It really was. I did no chores today except feed the chickens and collect a few eggs. I had the day off!” She fell back onto the bed and giggled like a child. “It was a good day.” 

“I’m glad you had a good birthday, love, but I wish Ma and Pa would have connected with you. I’ll try to call them later to check on them.” If everything was okay with them, he would be relieved but angry at the same time. They promised to take care of her while he was gone. “We may have something going on tonight, so I’ll call you if I do. Otherwise, it will be next week, sweetheart.” 

“You have to go already?” she pouted. “I’ve just barely said hi.” 

“I know, sweetie. Ten other guys are waiting to call home. I can’t hog our break time.” He blew her a kiss. “I love you, my Frannie. Keep praying for me.” 

“I love you, Charlie. I pray every morning and night for you. I hope I don’t have to talk to you until next week.” It sounded terrible, but he knew what she meant.

“Me too, sweetie. I have to go. Be strong and pray, love. We’ll talk soon.” 

“I will,” she said. They blew kisses and hung up the call. And at the same time, almost six thousand miles apart, they said, “I miss you” to one another.


Fran was in the garden aerating the soil around the plants when her phone rang. She saw Charlie’s ID on the display and her heart sank. 

“Hello?” 

“Hi, love,” he said. “Oh Frannie, I’ve thought of nothing else but you today.” 

“I’ve been missing you here. Is everything okay, Charlie?” She heard footsteps and muffled sounds. 

“We have a mission in a few hours, love. This is when we need your prayers. Tell me you love me, Frannie. I need to know.” 

She shook her head. “No…” A sob choked her and she couldn’t speak. “Charlie… I love you. I love you. Promise me you’ll come back safe.” 

He shook his head. On this mission, he could make no such promise with reasonable certainty. “I love you, Frannie. Pray for us like the whole world depends on it.” He wasn’t afraid. This was what he had trained for. His only fear was leaving Fran behind, and it tortured him. “Pray, Frannie.” He took the phone from his face to gather himself and when he had, he spoke softly into it once again. “I will call you.” 

“I’ll be waiting,” she wept. 

*****

Hours passed, and the longer she had to wait for his phone call, the more she worried. Fran got up and started the tea kettle. She paced the floor and watched the sun come up in the backyard while she sat in a chair on the back porch. In each pocket, she had a phone. In her right, she had her cell phone and in the left pocket was the cordless handset to the house phone. 

Three hours later Fran was nearly out of her mind with worry so she tried to think of something, anything that would take her mind off the mission. She was upstairs folding laundry when she heard a knock on the door. Immediately, she felt sick and her legs went weak. From the top of the stairs, she called out, “Who is it?” 

“Armed Forces,” came the answer. Fran walked down to the bottom of the stairs and held to the railing for dear life. The distance between the bottom step and the door was less than five feet, but she couldn’t walk it. She stumbled to the door and opened it, two men from the base stood before her. “Mrs. Farmer?” 

Fran choked on a sob. “Yes?” 

“Mrs. Farmer, Charlie has been trying to reach you for hours, but he could not. Ma’am, he was injured in this morning’s mission, but not gravely.”

“How not gravely?” she asked. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

“He took a bullet to the shoulder. The doctors say he was very lucky. It missed every major nerve and blood vessel. Two inches lower and it would have pierced his heart.” 

“He’s okay?” she asked on the verge of relief. “He’s going to live?” 

“He is okay, Mrs. Farmer. He was going to tell you himself, but, as we said he couldn’t reach you. We are sorry to have alarmed you.” They tipped their hats and left. 

Fran’s first reaction was anger. “I asked you for protection!” she screamed into an empty house. “I asked you to keep him safe, but you failed me! You failed Charlie…” she collapsed on the floor of the living room and cried uncontrollably. 

Two hours after the cadets brought Fran the news of his injury her phone rang. She had fallen asleep on the floor in the living room and the ring startled her awake. Charlie’s number was on the ID and she scrambled to answer it.

“Hello?!” she said, nearly breathless.

“Hi love,” Charlie greeted her. “I’m okay, I want you to know that. It wasn’t as bad an injury as they originally thought.” She began to cry, not saying another word, and her sobs broke his heart. “Sweetie, I wanted to tell you myself before I went into surgery, but I couldn’t get the call to connect.” 

“They knocked on the door this morning, I thought I was a widow. I can’t do this anymore, Charlie. I can’t…” 

“Baby, I’m okay. I’m out of commission for a month or so until this heals. But I’m going to make a full recovery, I promise.” 

“This wasn’t supposed to happen!” she exclaimed. “Charlie, I prayed for you, for your safety and I failed you.” 

“No, you didn’t love. This could have been so much worse, Frannie. I was extremely blessed, and it was because of your prayers. Don’t give up hope, honey. Don’t give up on your faith.”

She sniffled and dabbed her eyes. “I’ll never give up. But I mean it when I say I can’t do this anymore. I need you…” 

“I’ll be in the hospital for a couple of days, and I have my cell with me. Call me anytime you want, honey, and I’ll talk to you. I’ll be in physical therapy for a couple of weeks, then it’s back out to the field.” 

“Anytime?” she asked. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. 

“Day or night. Frannie, keep praying for our men. They need prayers while I’m out of commission. Pray for me, too. Honey, I love you but I’m sleepy from the anesthesia. I’ll call you when I wake up in the morning, okay?” 

She nodded her head. “Yes, Charlie. Sweet dreams, my love. You promise to call in the morning?”

“Of course I do. Don’t forget to call Ma. I’m worried about them.” 

“I promise I’ll call her now. Charlie, I love you, and I’m happy you’re okay. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” 

He smiled. “Yes, you will. I love you, Frannie.” They blew kisses over the miles and hung up. 

Where she sat on the floor, she clasped her hands together and prayed out loud. “Thank you for sparing my Charlie’s life. Thank you for your hand of protection over him and his men. Please continue to keep them safe and watch over them. Amen.” 

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Up Next: Chapter Ten, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee:

Kaleeko at MTS

Custom Content:

Fran’s Cross Necklace by Severinka at Sims By Severinka
Garden Rose Living Chair by Severinka at TSR

Custom content and poses are not my property and have been used in compliance with the TOUs.

G1 Chapter Eight – The War Zone

Four years later…

Charlie stood outside the base and kicked the tire on the old truck. “This is not a good time for you to die, you worthless piece of junk!” Nevertheless, the engine would not turn over. He was stuck, and he dreaded to know what was wrong with the old pickup. Frustrated, he dialed Fran’s cell phone.

“Charlie? Is something wrong?” Fran answered the phone.

He sighed in annoyance. “The truck finally died. I’m going to be late coming home, darling.” 

Fran shook her head. Every time they began to get ahead, another setback came. “Okay, babe. Can someone give you a ride home?” 

“I’m going to wait for a tow truck and catch a ride with him. I hope we don’t need to replace it.” 

“I have some things to barter for a repair if it’s fixable. And if not, we have money to buy a new-to-us replacement.” 

Charlie huffed in exasperation. It took four years to save nearly five thousand simoleons toward their fertility procedure, and it could be gone in moments. “Cross your fingers, darling. But I think it might be time for a new one.” 

“I’ll be waiting for you,” she replied. 

At dusk, the tow truck arrived with the old pickup. Charlie hopped out of the passenger side and settled the bill with him before the driver released the truck. He pushed it into the driveway and kicked it one last time. He waited four hours for the tow, and he was tired.

Fran had supper in the oven to keep it warm and when he opened the front door she ran to greet him. Her cheery smile brightened his mood immediately and he was happy to be home. 

“Hi love,” she said and wrapped her arms around him. A soft kiss completed the greeting.

“You are a sight for sore eyes, Frannie. What a day.” He removed his hat and placed it on the table by the door. “I don’t have time off until Friday so we are without a car until I can look at it.”

“It’s okay, love,” she said. “If I need to go somewhere in town, I’ll ride Marne. I don’t get her out enough anyway.” 

“What’s for supper? It smells good.” 

“Your favorite, love. Steak tips and fresh garden veggies.”

“You always seem to know when I need a pick-me-up, sweetie. Thank you.” They sat down to supper together and enjoyed each other’s company.

After the dishes were cleaned up, Fran sat by the fireplace, Charlie sat near her and put his head back on the chair. She fiddled nervously with her wedding ring and finally spoke. “I got a phone call this morning.” 

“From who, love?” 

“Oliver Farnam. Apparently, they have another purebred Arabian horse boarded, a stallion. The owner offered stud services if we’re interested in breeding Marne.”

Charlie shook his head. “With the truck, this isn’t a good time, love. Stud services are not usually cheap, especially with an Arabian.” 

“They offered to share ownership of the foal, one-third to our two-thirds. We would keep it on our farm, and they would share expenses.” 

Charlie scratched his chin. “I don’t see a downside to it, Fran. Why don’t we do it?” 

“Well, it brings me to one other thing. Missy… she isn’t giving milk anymore, Charlie. I swore to myself I’d never give her up. But with Marne, can we afford to keep a cow that doesn’t give milk?” 

“Oh Frannie, I’m sorry love. I didn’t realize she was getting to that age.” 

“She’s thirteen. I love her to bits, but I’m not sure I can justify keeping her. And if we have a foal next year, Moo might be an expense we can’t sustain, either. But breeding Marne might be a lucrative investment. If the foal has good lines, we could sell our interest for a nice price.” Fran could have never foreseen giving up her cows for horses. 

“Could you give Missy and Moo up, baby?”

She shook her head. “It would be difficult, but truthfully, I’m overwhelmed with the farm and the animals and we still can’t afford help. I might have to make a tough decision.” 

“I trust your instincts when it comes to the farm, love. This has been your whole life. You know what’s best.” 

“For now, I just need Caleb’s tiller. The plants are nearly ready to transplant, and I have double the seedlings this year.” She stood up to stretch. “I need to get to sleep. I have a long day tomorrow.” 

“I do too,” Charlie agreed. They walked together up the steps to their bedroom.


“No!” Charlie said adamantly. “Respectfully, sir, I cannot go.” 

“Farmer, you have a direct command. You deploy in two days. Get your affairs in order.” 

He plopped at his desk and buried his face in his hands. A one-year deployment overseas loomed ahead of him, and this time the safety of his unit was not a guarantee. An escalating conflict required troops, and he did not want to go. But defying an order was grounds for a dishonorable discharge and he couldn’t risk it. He did not want to tell Fran he was going away.

“My wife, sir. She has no one left but me. I can’t go, sir.” Charlie tried one last plea for clemency, but it fell on deaf ears.

“Do I need to restrict you to base before we deploy, Farmer?” His superior officer paced in Charlie’s office.

“No, sir,” Charlie said. “I will be ready.” 

On his way home from work that day, he stopped by his parents’ house. He didn’t see them often enough, and now he feared he would not see them again. Gently, he knocked on the door and his mother appeared.

“Charles!” she exclaimed. “Come in, son. Where is Frannie?” 

“She’s home, Ma. I have something to tell you and Pa, and a favor to ask.” The serious look on his face startled Dolly.

“What’s wrong, Charles?” She led him to their living room and he sat on the old, worn-out couch. “George, come here a moment?” she called to her husband. 

He swallowed a large lump in his throat. It wasn’t like Charlie to be emotional, but news of the deployment had him rattled. “I wish to wait for Pa to get here.” 

George came up from the basement of the house where he had a workshop. When he saw Charlie’s face, he knew immediately something was wrong. Dolly sat beside him and took his hand. Charlie sat across from them in an easy chair.

“Ma, Pa…” his voice trailed off. “If you’ve been watching the news, you know about the conflict overseas. I’m scheduled to deploy there for twelve months.” Dolly gasped and clutched her husband’s arm. “I want to ask if you’ll keep an eye on Frannie while I’m away. She has no one anymore. Her mama is gone now…” He wiped a tear from his eyes. “If something happens to me, please take care of her?” 

George sat forward on the sofa and sighed. “Well, of course, we will take care of her, Charl. When did you find this out?” 

“This morning. Every plea, every favor I have didn’t buy me anything but frustration. I don’t have to report until Friday morning. This will break her heart.” Charlie’s head hung. “You know there’s a chance I won’t come home.” 

“No!” Dolly stated. “I refuse to believe that. You will be protected and you will come home to her. To all of us, Charles.” She stood and went to her only son and hugged him. 

Though he still dreaded telling Fran, he was peaceful knowing she would be looked after if he did not return. “I need to head home. Thank you,” he said. He hugged both his mother and father, tipped his hat and walked toward the door. “I love you both.” 

“Don’t you act like you’re not coming home, Charles!” his mother cried. “I love you, son.” 

George, not one for anything emotional, simply stood and shook his hand. “There is no goodbye, son. Only see you later.” Charlie nodded and understood. He turned for one last wave and left, afraid it would be the last time he would see either of them.

Charlie walked to their home just a few doors down, walked up the steps and opened the door. Fran was in the kitchen making cheese from the morning’s milk collection when she heard him. “Is that you, love?” she called happily.

“Indeed.” 

She set her work aside and walked to the living room, Charlie sat in his recliner. He stared out of the window deep in thought. Fran walked to him and touched him gently. “What’s wrong, Charlie?” 

Her soft touch and voice brought him back to the cruel reality and he didn’t want to tell her. “Frannie…” he buried his head in his hands, unable to speak.

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“You’re frightening me, Charlie. What’s wrong?” 

“My unit is being deployed overseas on Friday, Frannie. I can’t get out of it.”

Her bottom lip quivered. She was well aware of what it meant. “No…” 

“I was told to get my affairs in order.” 

A single tear dripped from her eyes. “No…” 

Fran fell to the floor and Charlie embraced her tightly in his arms. “I’m so sorry, my love.” With his arms around her, she wept. 

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“Charlie, what if you don’t come home?” 

“Oh darling, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I come home to you. I haven’t fulfilled my promise yet.” He snuggled her close in his embrace and kissed her. “I am going to make sure you have a baby. That is my heart’s desire, and I refuse to leave this world without giving you that, Frannie. I promise.” 

Fran couldn’t speak, her words swallowed by fear and dread. But Charlie held her to him, he kissed her tenderly and let her cry in his arms. And when she collected herself, she kissed him and stroked his cheek. “Take me to bed, Charlie,” she whispered into his ear. “Don’t stop until you have to leave.”


The next morning, Charlie called the fertility specialist they had seen some four years earlier. Dr. Prisco answered the call. 

“This is Charlie Farmer. You saw my wife and me a few years ago regarding a fertility problem.” 

“Yes, Mr. Farmer, I remember you. What can I do for you today?” 

“I am being deployed overseas on Friday, and there is a chance I will not come home. Is there a way you can take my sperm and freeze it for a later date? I need Frannie to have this baby, for her to continue her family legacy.”

“You do realize there is a cost involved in the storage,” Dr. Prisco said. 

“How much are we talking?” he asked. 

“About two thousand, more or less.” 

“When can I do this? It’s imperative Frannie not know. It would be tantamount to admitting I’m not coming home, and she can’t be allowed to entertain that thought.” 

“At your earliest convenience since I know you’re up against time. How about in an hour?”

“Thank you, Dr. Prisco. I will be there.” Charlie was pleased with himself. 

When he returned to the bedroom to get dressed Fran was awake. “What are you doing, Charlie?” 

“I need to take care of something downtown, honey. I’ll be back soon.” 

“What?” 

“It’s related to my deployment. I won’t be long, sweetheart, and I’ll be home.” He walked to the bed and kissed her. “Don’t cry, my love. I’ll be back soon.” 

Charlie took money he had gotten as an advance on his salary and headed to the doctor’s office, ready to help Frannie achieve her dream. Ninety minutes later, his mission accomplished, Charlie was on his way back home to the love of his life. 

While he was gone, Fran got up from the bed and got dressed to make breakfast and turn Marne loose in the pasture. The pot of spoiled milk sat on the stove and she huffed in exasperation. She never returned to finish the cheese she had started the previous afternoon. She had just finished a saucepan of gravy when Charlie returned home, a fresh batch of biscuits waited on a cooling rack.

“It smells heavenly in here,” Charlie said. He walked up behind Fran and kissed her neck. “I love that you made my favorite breakfast.” 

“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked and smiled. “It’s my way of spoiling you.” 

“You do such a fantastic job of spoiling me, too, Frannie.” He set the dining table, carried biscuits and set them down upon it. He poured two mugs of coffee and set them on the table while she finished cooking eggs. And when they sat to eat, they joined hands together, his fervent prayer spoken. 

After breakfast, they worked side by side to clean the kitchen and retired back to their bedroom. For a time they cuddled together, no words spoken but their love was understood. They had one more full day to spend together, and neither of them wanted to miss a moment of it.


The next morning, Charlie’s phone woke him. Dr. Prisco was on the other end of the line. 

“Mr. Farmer, this is Dr. Prisco. I wanted to let you know we have a more than sufficient number of viable sperm from the sample you gave yesterday, so if the need should arise there is a better chance of success than I first believed.”

“This is great news! Thank you so much,” Charlie said, relieved. 

“I will pray for you and Fran that we will never need them, Charlie,” Dr. Prisco said. “I wish you the best on your deployment. Come home safely.” 

“Thank you, doctor,” he replied, and they disconnected the call. His life insurance could cover the expense of the procedure with plenty left over for Fran to live on, and he felt at peace. Even if he didn’t come back alive, he could still give her what she wanted most.

“Who was that, Charlie?” Fran asked, sleep still heavy in her voice.

“The errand I ran yesterday was a physical before my deployment. The doctor called with the results of my bloodwork.” It was a half-truth. 

“How did it turn out, love?” 

“It was perfect, my Frannie.” 

“Time is short. Do you want breakfast yet?” She snuggled back into his arms when he laid back down. 

“Mmm, not yet,” he replied. “But I do need to pack my bag before tonight, baby. I need to report by five tomorrow morning.” He felt her shoulders heave in sorrow and he was immediately sorry he had said anything. “Shh, Frannie, it’s okay love.” 

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared to death, Charlie. This is different than Dragon Valley. You’re going to a war zone.” She kissed him, tears streamed down her face and dampened his skin. “What if—”

“No, baby, don’t think that way. Now is the time to lean on prayer and our faith. Frannie, I want you to attend chapel. I need you to pray. And keep your heart and mind on me coming home in one piece. A year will be over before we know it.” He wiped the tears from her face and embraced her. “I love you more than life itself.” 

“Charlie, love me like it’s our last day on earth. I need you.” 

*****

Fran was sound asleep in Charlie’s arms, but he needed to get up. He hated how quickly time passed on their last day together. But he decided to do her chores one last day, so he got dressed and groomed Marne for her. Missy and Moo were in the barn waiting for him and the apple he had in his pocket. He took his time with them, not sure if either Missy or Moo would still be on the farm in a year. In his own way, he said goodbye to both of them and walked from the barn. In the chicken coop, he collected a few eggs and brought them inside. 

Fran was awake and making supper when he came inside. It wasn’t a big, elaborate meal but she made it with her own hands, the last act of love shown to her husband. He walked to where she stood and hugged her, nuzzled his face into her neck and kissed her tenderly. She turned around and rested her head on his chest, his heartbeat comforted her. 

“Supper is almost ready, love,” she whispered. 

He kissed the top of her head and rocked her in his arms. “It smells wonderful.” 

They sat and ate together without words spoken, but none were needed. They both knew what was coming, and they both hated it. And when they were finished, Fran stood to clean the kitchen but Charlie stopped her. 

“One last time, Frannie, let me spoil you.” She shook her head, but he held her close to him. “Go wait for me, love. I’ll be up soon. Please, let me do this for you.” 

“Okay,” she finally relented and kissed him. “I’ll be waiting.” 

Half an hour later, Charlie walked up the stairs to Fran, but she was asleep on the bed, curled up with his pillow. He knew she had been crying and it broke his heart. He sat on the bed near her and reached to stroke her hair, and suddenly he was overwhelmed. Knowing she would be alone while he was gone tormented him and he cried. 

His weeping woke Fran and she began to cry. “Oh sweetie,” he sobbed, “this is not how I want to spend our last night together.” 

“I know,” she wept. “I just want to be near you. I will miss you terribly, and I can’t wait until next year.” 

“Come here, love, and let me hold you.” He laid down on the bed with her and embraced her. He knew he had to pack, but all he wanted to do was love her. He covered her in kisses and allowed her to cry in his arms. “Oh Frannie, I love you,” he repeated whispered confessions into her ear. And he loved her into the night until she finally fell asleep, exhausted.

Charlie still needed to pack his duffle bag, though some of the gear he would take was on base. So after she fell asleep, he spent time and organized uniforms, gear, personal items, and a handkerchief with Fran’s perfume on it. He opened a photo frame from the bedroom and took the picture within, tucked it into his prayer book and packed it into the bag. By two o’clock, he was ready except for a shower and the goodbyes.

He counted on being able to sleep on the flight that would bring them overseas. Charlie hadn’t slept a wink in nearly twenty-four hours. He walked to the yard and looked around the town at the neighbor’s farm, to the empty garden plot that Caleb had tilled the morning he learned of the deployment. Missy, Moo, and Marne were asleep in the barn. Crickets still chirruped in the field and lightning bugs glowed in the tall grasses behind the fence. Charlie sat in the pasture and watched the stars, breathed in the fresh country air and sighed. 

He walked back into the house and up the stairs to their bedroom. Fran slept peacefully, wrapped around his pillow. He watched her sleep for a moment and walked to the shower. The water was warm and it felt good. He wasn’t sure when his next warm shower would be, and he closed his eyes and relished it.

The moment he dreaded since he learned of his deployment was upon him, and he walked to Fran. Gently, he kissed her to wake her. He was dressed in his uniform, and the instant she saw him, tears filled her eyes. 

“No…” she cried. “You can’t leave me.” 

“I have to, sweetie.” He sat on the bed with her and caressed her cheek. “I will call you when we get there, I promise. And as often as I can, I will call you. I will come home to you. Count on it, my love.” 

“You’d better, Charlie. I love you with all my heart.” She stood up to hug him, and he held her tight to him.

“Oh darling, I love you with all I have. I’ll be home.” He kissed her. “Walk me downstairs.”

She walked with him to the living room. His duffle bag sat at the door and waited for him. A sob choked her and she flung her arms around his neck.

“Remember Frannie, I want you to attend chapel. I need you to pray for me. Ma and Pa will make sure you’re okay, honey. Sunny and Caleb will help whenever you need it. Lean on our friends and neighbors, and I’ll be home before you know it.” He kissed her and held her. “Frannie, I love you.”

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“Charlie, I love you. Come home to me.” They broke their embrace and he picked up his bag and walked five steps from her. Tears filled her eyes as he walked away. But he stopped, dropped his bag and ran back to her.

“Pray for me, Frannie. Please, pray with all you have. I’ll call you tonight.” He kissed her, wiped his eyes and kissed her again. “I love you.” 

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Fran couldn’t speak any longer, sobs shook her body and she fell to her knees as he walked away from her. She watched as he got into the car that arrived for him and waved as they drove away. “I love you,” she whispered as the car disappeared in a cloud of dust. 

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Up Next: Chapter Nine, Generation One


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G1 Chapter Seven – Penny’s Last Gift

Two Weeks Later…

Fran returned to the market for the first time since Penny’s death on a late summer morning. The plants still produced beautiful vegetables and fruits, but instead of a stand full of fresh produce, jars of preserves and jams took nearly half of the display. In the weeks before and after Penny’s death, when no one brought their bounty to market, it was Fran’s only choice. Now she hoped the demand for preserves and jams was as great as it was for the fresh produce.

That morning, she had a cup of coffee from home and was setting up her display when Sunny appeared beside her. “Good morning, Fran. Caleb and I were so sorry to hear of your mama’s passing.” 

Fran swallowed hard. “Thanks, Sun. It’s been a hard road back to normal since she’s been gone.” 

Sunny had a fresh blueberry muffin in her hands, wrapped and ready for Fran. “I baked a fresh batch this morning and kept my best one for you. Enjoy it with your coffee before we get started.” 

“Thank you, Sun. This looks delicious!” She opened a jar of fruit preserves, spread some onto the muffin and took a bite. Since she now had an opened jar, she decided to use it for samples, so she portioned some into a cup with a butter knife along with some crackers she brought for lunch and set the preserves out on the display. 

Throughout the morning, one by one the other vendors approached Fran to express their condolences. And one by one, she thanked them for the generous gifts that saved her beloved farm. At the end of the day, she had a fistful of cash, an empty produce display and just a few jars of preserves left. She left the market feeling better than she had in months, confident and very relieved. 

Charlie was already home and had the cows and chickens tended when she walked through the front door, tired but happy. She walked to the sitting room and kicked her shoes off, stripped naked and walked into the shower on the first floor. Charlie followed her in, intrigued about her day. 

“Hey love,” he greeted her, and she jumped. 

“You startled me!” she laughed. “Oh, Charlie, it’s so good to be back to normal. What a day.” 

“What happened, my Frannie?”

“Everything good! My day started with a fresh muffin from Sunny, and every single vendor at the market made their way over to express their condolences. I had a chance to thank everyone who blessed us. And to top it off, I sold out of almost everything!” She turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. “I did really well today. I can’t complain.” 

“I have my own good news,” Charlie beamed. “I begin flight training next week. I have a big promotion coming up, and a nice raise to go with it.” 

Fran didn’t care that she was naked. She didn’t care that she was still soaking wet. But she was so excited to hear Charlie’s good news she squealed and nearly jumped into his arms. “This is wonderful news!” She covered his face in kisses. 

“Wow, Frannie,” Charlie laughed. “If you keep that up, we might not get to supper tonight.”

“What do you mean?” 

“I mean, I’m taking you to the bistro. Now, it’s nothing fancy, but I want to celebrate us tonight. We haven’t spoiled each other in a long time.” 

Fran wrinkled her nose. “Ordinarily, I’d say no. But we’re in decent shape right now. We can splurge just a little.” She hung her arms around his neck and kissed him again. “What should I wear?” 

He laughed uncomfortably. “Well, not that.” He brushed a wet, curly strand of hair out of her face and kissed her. “Whatever you wear, you will be beautiful my darling.” He picked her up amid a flurry of laughter and carried her up the steps to their bedroom. 

An hour later, they were ready for supper at the bistro. He drove them to the downtown restaurant and parked the truck outside. Arm in arm, they walked in and were seated immediately. 

“The last time we were here was our first anniversary, Charlie,” Frannie said. “It doesn’t look a bit different, either.” They were seated by the fireplace though it wasn’t lit. The table was cozy and comfortable. When the waiter appeared, they both ordered sweet tea, which gave them time to peruse the menu. 

Fran’s eyes sparkled in the dim lighting of the dining room, and she looked beautiful to Charlie. He took her hand and kissed it. “You realize that, with this raise, I’ll be making enough to start saving some money back for our procedure. I mean, it will still take some time to save up twenty-five thousand simoleons, but we’ll be on our way.” This was his number one priority, his all-consuming desire. 

With all that had transpired over the past months, Fran had almost forgotten about the procedure. But she nodded her head. “It will take a very long time to save. But in the short term, we’re good. Missy and Moo get to stay. The chickens and that ill-tempered rooster get to stay. And before winter, I’ll see if I can’t find an apiarist who will either take the bees or sell us a new hive. They’re valuable to me on the farm and I’d like to keep them if possible.”

Charlie watched her as she talked about the farm. He knew how much she loved it and was so happy things had turned around for her. The look on his face was sweet and she reached to caress it.

“My goodness, Frannie, you are beautiful,” he said and nuzzled his face into her hand. 

She blushed. “What are you thinking, Charlie? I’ve done all the talking.” 

“I’m just watching you, honey.  You’re so happy, and it’s good to see you like this.” He kissed her hand. “I’m enjoying right now, and I love it.”

“I know I should be sad, all things considered. But I haven’t felt this happy in a long time.” 

“Frannie, grief will be there for a while. But embrace the happy times when they happen. You have great memories of your mama. She would love to see you happy.” 

“You’re right, Charlie. I mean, I do miss her. For a long time, it was just me and her. But it gives me comfort knowing she’s not suffering anymore, that she’s with my daddy.”

Charlie smiled at her. “I love you, darling. And someday, you will continue your family legacy. Giving you the baby you desire is my ultimate goal, Frannie. I won’t stop until you have that. Until we have it together.”

She wiped a tear from her eyes. “I love you so much, Charlie.”

Their tender moment was interrupted when the waiter brought their meals. They sat and enjoyed them, sharing bites together, laughing and having fun. It was the first time since Penny’s illness that either of them had truly laughed, and it felt good.


A week later a letter arrived for Fran from a prominent attorney. The letter came by carrier and she needed to sign for it. Nervous, she opened the envelope and read the letter within. She dropped the paper on the floor, sat down and cried. Charlie was in the kitchen and came out with a towel in his hand. 

“Who was at the door?”

“Charlie…” she handed him the paper from the floor. “You’re not going to believe this.” 

His lips moved as he read the letter. It was from an attorney representing the owner of the equestrian center not far from the farm. “Am I reading this correctly? What did we inherit?” 

“A purebred Arabian mare. Mama owned a fifty percent stake in it. She never said so, Charlie. The owners are surrendering their share to us. As of the first of the month, we own a horse.” She buried her head in her hands. The property was big, but with the cows, there was no room for another building. 

“Where are we going to put her, Frannie?” 

“I don’t know.” An expansion of the existing barn would cost thousands and time they didn’t have. “We can’t catch a break.” 

“Well, things will work out somehow, love. I know they will.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “We’ve never been let down before.”

“I hope you’re right. This is something we can’t control, something I had no idea would happen. What was she thinking not letting me know?” Fran sniffled and wiped her eyes. 

“I don’t know.” He kissed her forehead. “Sweetie, don’t worry. We’re going to figure this out one way or another.” 

“Would you drop me off at the market this morning, love? I’m running late.” Frannie wiped her eyes and stood. “I have the truck loaded up.”

“Of course I will. I’m going to work in the yard while I’m home today. The cow barn needs to be mucked and so does the coop.” He took his keys from the bowl on the table. “Did you need help at the market today, baby?”

“Oh, no, that’s okay. The animals really need to be cared for, and if that’s what you have on your agenda today then you should stick with it. But thank you.” 

They both got into the truck and Charlie drove her to the market, helped her unload the boxes of produce and carried them to her stand. Sunny Bradford greeted both of them happily.

“Good morning, Charlie, Frannie.” She studied the face of her friend and cocked her head. “Is something wrong?” 

Fran shook her head. “It’s nothing.”

“It doesn’t look like nothing.  How can we help?” 

“Penny left us half ownership of an Arabian mare and the other owners are relinquishing their claim to it. Next month, we will add a horse to our farm,” Charlie said. “We have nowhere to shelter her right now. It’s quite a predicament.” 

Sunny wrinkled her nose. “She never told you about it, Fran? You realize what an Arabian mare is worth, don’t you?” Fran looked at her, confused. “Arabian horses are rare in Appaloosa Plains, and they are bred for speed. Chances are, she is a racehorse. She is potentially worth thousands and any offspring she has would be, too, simply based on her pedigree.”

“You’re kidding.” Fran was stunned.

“I’m not,” Sunny said. “You have a treasure, Fran. Did your mama have a will in place?”

Fran shook her head. “I’m not sure. She might have, but she didn’t have much to worry about.”

“It might be worth researching.” Sunny hugged her friend. 

“I will, thank you.” Charlie was standing nearby waiting for a kiss. “Are you heading home now?” 

“I am. I have a full day of chores ahead of me. Call me when you’re ready to come home, and I’ll pick you up, sweetie. Have fun!” He kissed her cheek.

“I love you!” she called to him as he turned to leave. He turned around and walked backward, and blew a kiss.

“I love you more!”

*****

When Charlie returned home, he retrieved mail from the mailbox and set it on the desk like he did every day when he came home from work. But this time, there was a letter from an attorney in a downtown office addressed to Fran. He set it apart from the other mail on the desk, changed into his overalls and went to the barn.

A few hours later, his phone rang. He was nearly done with the chicken coop, so he set the pitchfork down and wiped his hands on his pants.

“Hello?”

“Hi love,” Fran greeted him. “I’m sold out of nearly everything, so I’m closing shop early. I can sit with Sunny while I wait for you, so take your time.” 

“I’ll be about twenty minutes, darling. I just need to finish the coop and I’ll be on my way.” 

“I’ll be waiting!” Fran said. 

When he arrived Fran was in a much better mood than when he left her that morning. She and Sunny were chatting as he approached them, and she ran for him. “There’s my Charlie,” she said. Fran threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “I’m so happy to see you.”

Charlie smiled. “I see you are in a happy mood. Did you have a good day, love?” 

“I had a great day. I only have a few jars of preserves. We only have three more days left of the market and I’m done for the season.” While she was happy that her days would be free, she didn’t look forward to the end of steady income. But the weather was already threatening frost for the following evening, and she had some work to do.

“Do you need help bringing boxes back to the truck, baby?”

“If you wouldn’t mind.” He carried the majority of them back to the truck, stacked almost too high for him to see, but he insisted. 

On the drive back home, Charlie remembered the letter. “Fran, there’s a letter for you from an attorney at home.” 

“Oh? Did you open it?” 

“No, it’s yours. I wonder if it’s about the horse.” 

Fran shook her head. “Maybe it’s about Mama’s will. If she hid the horse, she probably had a will I didn’t know about, too. Who knows what else will pop up?”

“Hopefully only good surprises, my love. We could use a break.” 

“Amen to that,” she wholeheartedly agreed.

They left the boxes in the pickup and walked together to the house. Fran’s first stop was the mail pile that sat on the desk, and she opened the letter carefully. 

“Charlie? Can you get Tuesday next week off from work? The attorney would like us to meet with him. I hope this is good news. We can’t afford another setback.” 

“I will request it, sweetie. Did he give any hints about the meeting?” 

“Only that it concerns Mama’s will. This is going to have me anxious until then, but I will confirm it in the morning.” 

He walked to her and hugged her tightly. “I’m sure we will be okay, my love. In the meantime, how about a nice shower together?”

“Mmm, that sounds delightful!” 


That Tuesday, Charlie and Fran drove to the downtown office of her mother’s lawyer, the letter clutched in her hand. Charlie looked professional in his dress uniform, and Fran wore her best dress. Both were nervous as they opened the door and checked in at the front desk.

Ten minutes later, an older gentleman appeared from a closed hallway. “Mr. and Mrs. Farmer?” They stood together and Charlie took Fran’s arm as they approached him. He led them to his office through a maze of hallways and cubicles, sat behind his desk and motioned for them to be seated. The furniture in the office was mahogany, and the atmosphere was that of sophistication and professionalism.

There was an uncomfortable silence while he searched through the papers on his desk for the Hutchins file. Charlie took Fran’s hand and she looked at him, worry on her face. Finally, the man spoke.

“Clifton Carrier, attorney at law,” he finally introduced himself. “You must be Penny and Jake’s daughter. You take after your mother.” 

Fran nodded. “Yes.” 

“Very well. The reason I asked to meet with you is that your mother had her will on file with this office. You have my condolences on her passing. She was a wonderful lady.” Fran nodded. “I know by now you have been informed of the Farnam’s intentions regarding the Arabian mare. Your mother’s will largely deals with this. Were you aware she had a life insurance policy, Mrs. Farmer?” 

Fran shook her head. “No, I was not. She never disclosed any of this to me. It was quite a shock to learn about the horse.” 

Cliff nodded his head. “She wished to leave this for you as a surprise and an investment. Her life insurance policy was put into place when she took partial ownership of the horse. Though you may use it for whatever purpose you desire, she intended the policy to cover her last gift to you and your husband, specifically for the building of an extension of the existing barn or construction of a new one to shelter her.”

Fran shook her head. “I don’t understand. How long has she owned this horse, Mr. Carrier?” 

“Marne is seven years old, and she bought into it shortly after the dam became impregnated.” He shuffled through the paperwork. “I have the original contract here if you wish to see it.” 

“Please.” Fran took the contract from him and skimmed it. “Charlie, she’s had this since before you and I reunited.” She smiled and handed the contract back to Cliff. “She had incredible foresight.”

“Why a horse though, Fran?” Charlie was confused. 

“When I was a little girl, I took riding lessons and I always begged Mama and Daddy for a horse of my own. After Daddy died, my dream of having a horse died with him. But she must have planned it, she knew I wouldn’t be able to resist it, that I would keep it as a final gift from her.” Fran wiped a tear from her eyes. “She knew me so well.” 

“Then we will use the proceeds of her insurance policy to provide for, what did you say her name was?” Charlie asked.

“Farnam’s Shiny New Penny, call name Marne. She is a thoroughbred Arabian horse of impeccable pedigree. She was bred for speed, and she is a proven winner. Her offspring will be valuable.” Cliff sat at his desk, his hands folded in front of him. 

“How much was her life insurance policy?” Fran asked. 

Cliff referenced the paperwork in front of him. “Ten thousand.” 

Fran tapped her fingers on the desk. It would likely be just enough to build an expansion of the barn and stock the barn with feed for the winter. She also considered that she would need to plant some additional pasture grass in the yard for the warmer months. 

“Well, that will solve the problem with the barn,” she finally said after a long silence. “How do we get that going, Mr. Carrier?” 

“I have the paperwork already completed. All you need to do is sign it.” 

“You will take your fees from the proceeds, I assume?” Charlie asked. 

“No, Penny prepaid this meeting when she arranged everything. There is nothing due from you.” 

Fran looked at Charlie with wonder. “She really did think of everything.” 

Cliff placed the life insurance application in front of her. “Take your time to read it, if you’d like. But I assure you, Fran, that you are the sole beneficiary. It just needs your signature, and it will take two weeks for the check.” 

“May I take a copy of this, so we can assure a contractor they will be paid? We don’t have money to put down as a deposit, but to finish construction before the weather turns, we’ll need to break ground soon.” Fran signed the document and slid it back to Cliff.

“Absolutely.” 

After everything was complete, Fran and Charlie left the office with a copy of all Penny’s paperwork. They felt confident and now looked forward to taking ownership of Marne. But Fran was quiet on the way home, lost in thought. 

“What’s on your mind, love?” he asked.

“Mama. She was sneaky. This horse, you know, it fulfills a lifelong dream, Charlie. And she made sure what she bought was the best she could get. A champion. It must have killed her to keep it secret from me.” 

“I’ve truly never met anyone like your mama, Fran. She was one of a kind.” He reached for her hand and held it. 

“That she was.” 


They broke ground on the expansion of the barn three days later. The contractor worked with Caleb Bradford and came highly recommended. The project would be done in two weeks, which would leave just a week overlap for Marne. But in the meantime, they would shelter her with Missy and Moo.

One week later, Marne was delivered to the farm and Fran was shocked. She was expecting a brown or black horse. But Marne was a palomino and she was beautiful. Fran’s jaw dropped open when she saw the young mare.

“Oh wow, Charlie, look at her. She is magnificent.” She ran her hand over the horse’s back and shoulders. Marne nickered at Fran and nuzzled her. “And she’s really friendly.” 

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“She is beautiful, that’s for sure.” Charlie inspected her. “New shoes, freshly bathed and groomed. She’s well cared for, obviously loved. And now she’s yours, my sweet Frannie.” 

“She’s ours, Charlie. I can’t wait to ride her.” 

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“Did they bring her tack to us?” 

Fran nodded. “It’s in the garage until the barn is finished. 

For the rest of the afternoon, Marne was left in the pasture to graze and run. She was obviously used to having a much larger space to exercise and Fran knew she wouldn’t be content without a daily ride. 

Shortly before dark, Fran brought out her brushes and combs, and she thoroughly groomed Marne before she was stabled for the evening. The mare loved the attention and nickered lightly as Fran’s capable, gentle hands groomed her. A blanket fastened around her for warmth on the upcoming chilly night, Marne was ready for her first night as a Farmer. Fran fed her a carrot from the garden and rubbed her nose, already in love with the pretty mare.

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Charlie was serving the supper Fran made when she returned to the kitchen. “Oh, thank you, love,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting this.” 

He smiled at her. “Well, you were busy with Marne so I thought I’d help out. How is she settling in, Frannie?” 

“She loves to be groomed. Whoever trained her was very hands-on, because she craves the attention. From all I know about racehorses, they aren’t usually this friendly. She has obviously been loved.” 

“What do Missy and Moo think of sharing their space?” he asked and dipped a chunk of bread into the bowl chili that sat in front of him.

“Missy doesn’t care, but Moo is fascinated with her. With every whinny, Moo looks at her. I think they’ll be fine. I’ll get up early and turn her loose in the pasture so she can graze. I believe it’s supposed to be warm tomorrow. When I’m done with chores, I plan on riding her to the equestrian center and back.”

Charlie smiled. “So when is the barn scheduled for completion? I know it’s looking great. The contractor is working hard to get this finished before the first snow.” 

“When he finished this afternoon, he said another six days. The frame is up and the roof is on. He just needs to run electricity and plumbing for the water trough. He’s going to put a sensor in it so it auto-fills, and it’s no more money than not having the sensor.” Fran pushed her bowl away. “I’m full.” 

“The chili was amazing, darling,” Charlie commented. “Why don’t you go relax and I’ll clean up the kitchen?” 

“At some point, Charlie, you need to stop spoiling me.” 

“Never,” he replied and smiled. “Please, sweetie. Let me take care of you.” 

“I’ll go check on Marne and the girls, then. I’ll meet you upstairs afterward.”

“That sounds like the best idea yet, darling.”

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Up Next: Chapter Eight, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Kaleeko’s Love and Horses, A Pose Pack

Custom Content:

Comfort Halter Padded and Heavy Winter Horse Blanket from Sugar Legacy Stables
Straw Floor Pattern from TheSims3.com Exchange
“Moo” from Severinka at Sims By Severinka
Missy and the Cow Barn at TheSims3 Store

Custom content and poses are not my property and have been used in compliance with the TOUs.

G1 Chapter Six – Saying Goodbye

Summertime brought warmer weather and the farmer’s market to Appaloosa Plains. Fran’s prize-winning garden was on track to win some ribbons at the county fair. The fruits and vegetables the plants produced were flavorful and in high demand. She spent many long, grueling hours on her feet as she tended their farm stand at the market every day. And when she returned home for the evening, she still had plants to harvest and weed. 

Charlie picked up extra hours and shifts on his days off whenever he could. Determined to make his shortcomings right with Fran, he worked tirelessly to bring home extra money when he could. It was now his mission in life to give his wife, who did more than her share of the work in the home, what she desired more than anything else. However he could manage to do it, he was committed to her happiness.

Penny’s health declined slowly since the spring, but Dr. Miller saw her regularly at the house. And instead of accepting money for his services, he took small barters from Fran’s garden. On one such visit, he decided to order a bed and wheelchair for Penny. Fran and Charlie set up the sitting room off the living room as a makeshift bedroom for her. She had grown too weak to climb the steps to her own room. The extra expense took everything they had saved since the spring. It was a huge setback.

Fran stayed home from the market the day the bed was delivered and lost a day of sales. But there was little Fran wouldn’t do for her mother. Penny sat in her rocker and watched life go by from the window in the living room. 

The equipment was delivered by 3:00 pm that afternoon, and Fran spent the rest of the day getting the room ready for Penny. Charlie walked in shortly afterward, tired and overly warm. Fran followed him into the downstairs bathroom where he stripped his uniform and shambled to the shower. The hot water felt good on his sore, achy muscles, and he was surprised to see Fran sitting on the sink waiting for him. 

“Hi, love,” he greeted her. “I’m surprised you’re in here. Is something wrong?” 

“I have a confession.” 

“It can’t be that bad. What is it, Frannie?” 

“The bed and wheelchair Mama needs came today. They needed payment on delivery.” 

“Well, how much was it, love?” He slipped into his robe and tied it around his waist. 

“One thousand, two hundred,” she said and cringed, tears rolled down her cheeks. 

“Frannie, that was the whole savings account.” His shoulders slumped. “But what can we do? She needs this stuff.” He hugged her close. “Don’t cry, sweetie. We’ll be okay. We’ll just start over.”

“I’m sorry,” she cried. “I know she needed it, but it hurt taking that money from our savings. That’s four years’ worth of money.” 

“It’s okay, darling,” Charlie reassured her. “I’ll just get more hours on base.” 

“I already don’t see you very much as it is, Charlie.”

“I know, honey, but I have to make this right. It’s up to me.” He kissed her forehead. “Take care of your mama, Frannie. She needs you.” 

Fran finished Penny’s new bedroom and got her settled into bed. “How does everything feel, Mama?” she asked.

“Well, it’s comfortable enough. I hope you didn’t spend your money on me, Fran. I could have slept on the couch just as well.” 

“Mama, don’t be silly. It was house money,” she lied. She had closed that account at the bank two years ago when they couldn’t barter the roof repairs. They never recovered from it. “Besides, you need this stuff to keep you safe and comfortable.” 

“Just make sure you’re not spending your money on me, child. You have other priorities besides me.” 

“Nonsense, Mama. You’re my priority right now.” Fran kissed her forehead and smiled. “If you need anything, just say so. I have a baby monitor set up so you can let me know if you need me.” 

Penny rolled her eyes. “A baby monitor?” 

“Yes, Mama. How else will I hear you if you need me in the night? You’re not across the hall from me anymore.” 

Penny nodded. “Okay, you make too much sense, my Fran.” She groaned in pain. “When can I have medication?” 

Fran consulted the chart the doctor made up and looked for the last dose. “Now, Mama. Would you like water or juice?” 

“Water is good, child. And some tea, if you don’t mind?” 

“Anything for you, Mama,” Fran said with a smile. “I’ll be back.” 

*****

Fran sat with their financial papers spread on the dining room table. Carefully she poured over figures, expenses for the farm and their projected profits for the season. Despite a bumper crop of vegetables and fruits from the garden, they were going to barely break even with the extra feed for the animals over the winter. And Fran knew she had some tough decisions to make regarding the future of their farm.

Charlie rolled over in bed and the spot next to him was empty. It was uncharacteristic for Fran to be up this late at night. The clock read 1:28 am. He pulled his robe on and walked downstairs. His first stop was Penny’s room, but she was sleeping soundly. The light from the dining room was on and beneath it, Fran sat, calculator in her hand and a pencil behind her ear. But no matter how she crunched the numbers the end result was inevitable. 

“Hey, Frannie, what are you doing up this late?” he asked. He saw the spreadsheets, budget, bank statements and invoices spread over the table. “Can’t sleep, or trying to make this all work?” 

She huffed and blew a lock of hair from her face. “A little of both, I think. Charlie, the cost of grain is going up for the winter. Hay is almost double what it was last year, and chicken feed is close to double. With Mama’s extra expenses and Dr. Miller taking some of our produce, my profit margin is not good this year.” She threw the pencil down on the table in frustration. “I don’t want to do this, Charlie, but we might have to sell Missy and Moo…” her voice trailed off. “I just can’t see how we make this work with them still on the farm.” 

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Charlie sat down with her and looked at the numbers. “Wow, is grain really that much?” Fran nodded her head, her face buried into her hands. “I’m sure we can figure a way to keep Missy and Moo here with us, love. We’ll just have to cut corners elsewhere.” 

“I have nothing else to cut, Charlie. I’m down to the bare minimum on feed for the chickens. And when I tended the bees last, their honeycombs looked almost dead. I think the hive is sick. The last bit of honey I got was really foul quality, and the beeswax wasn’t good either. Everything is falling apart. Mama is sick, we’re frustrated, the farm is failing. I’m almost asleep on my feet every morning at the market. I’m tired of being so broke, Charlie. I know we can do better if I gave up the farm and got a little job somewhere.”

“Oh honey, think long and hard about giving this up. I know you love it.” 

“I do love it, but it’s killing me slowly. Without Mama’s helping hands, I’m overwhelmed. And we can’t afford to hire someone to help.”

“Well, come to bed, sweetheart. Get some sleep and we can crunch some numbers in the morning when we’re fresh and awake. Please, Frannie.” He reached for her hand to take it. “Please.” 

She hung her head, defeated. “Okay,” she said reluctantly. “But promise me you will help me figure this out?” 

“You have my word.” 


The next morning, Charlie went to work on base as usual. But Penny was awake early and called for Fran. She hadn’t been asleep for very long when the monitor sounded, and she rolled over and looked at the clock. Five-thirty. She reached for her robe and put it on, walked down the stairs to Penny’s bedside and sat. 

“What’s wrong, Mama?” 

“Oh child, I need some pain relief.” Penny’s face was pale and contorted in agony. 

“Juice or water?” Fran asked. “And what kind of tea?” 

Penny eked out a smile. “Orange juice and Earl Grey, please baby girl. And thank you.” 

Fran walked to the kitchen to start the water for tea and took Penny’s prescription bottle. Then she opened the case that contained a package of birth control pills and stared at it. She knew she needed to start them, but she wiped a tear from her eyes, closed the case and placed it back into the cabinet. Fran carried a tray with two glasses, a bottle of orange juice and her tea and walked back to Penny’s room.

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Penny smiled weakly when she saw Fran. “There’s my girl,” she said. “Thank you.” Fran poured a glass of juice for each of them and took a pill from the bottle. She took the medicine eagerly, desperate for the relief it would bring. Fran set the cup of tea on her nightstand and gathered the juice glasses and pill bottle.

“Do you need anything else, Mama? I need to harvest what I can before I leave for the market this morning.” 

Penny grimaced. “You won’t be here all day, Fran? I could really use your help today.” 

Fran set the tray back down on the television and sat with Penny. “What’s wrong, Mama?” 

“I’m just not feeling well, child. The longer I go, the worse I feel. I’m just not sure I want to be alone today.” 

Fran bit her lip. She really needed to get to the market. The produce wouldn’t sell itself. But her first priority would always be her family. “Sure, Mama. I’ll stay home with you today.” 

“You’re a good girl, Fran.” Penny closed her eyes and drifted to sleep. 

Today’s predicament didn’t help her worries from the previous evening. The books and bank statements were still spread out on the table and they waited for her, taunted her. Every day lost was another reason to walk away from the farm and the only life she knew. Since she was home, she thought she would take advantage of the extra time and care for Missy and Moo. She cut an apple for each of them and stuffed a few grapes into her pocket as a special treat and went to milk them. 

Missy was happy to see Fran and nudged her hand looking for the treat. Fran smiled, but inside she was dying. As the cow ate her apple, tears dropped onto her nose. “I’m sorry, Missy,” Fran said. Moo waited impatiently for her treat, lowing and huffing her displeasure. Fran gave Moo the apple she had cut for her, and then treated both of them with a handful of grapes each. 

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Fran tethered Missy to her post and prepared to milk her. But Fran cried and rested her head against Missy’s side. “I’m going to miss you,” she wept. “I’m sorry, little Miss. I’ll try this again later.” She released Missy’s halter and allowed her to graze freely outside. Fran ran into the house and up the stairs.

By the time she reached the bedroom, Fran was sobbing. “Why is life so hard for us right now?” she cried. “Please, if you can hear me, we need a miracle,” she prayed. Curled into a ball, she turned the monitor on before she fell asleep. 

*****

Charlie returned home from work a little early and was surprised to see Fran’s purse sitting in the living room. Penny was resting in the sitting room, so he climbed the stairs to their bedroom. Fran was sound asleep on their bed, still curled into the fetal position, tears stained her face. Something was obviously wrong. Charlie sat on the bed and kissed her. 

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“Charlie,” she said, sleep heavy in her eyes. “What are you doing home so early?” 

“Honey, it’s almost three. How long have you been up here? Why aren’t you at the market?”

Fran yawned. “Mama didn’t want to be alone today. She wasn’t feeling well. I’m getting to the point that I’m afraid to leave her, Charlie. I might end up making more preserves than I planned with the harvest this year, or what’s left of it.”

He sighed. “Preserves aren’t going to make us as much as the fresh produce. But if we can’t get it to the market, it just doesn’t matter, does it?”

Fran shook her head. “No, it doesn’t matter at all. What are we going to do, Charlie? We are down to pennies in our savings account. We can’t afford feed for the cows this winter, and we are running short on barter items. If we have another big repair come up on the house, we’re in trouble.” 

Charlie embraced her. “We’re going to be okay, my love. We have each other and we have a roof over our heads. We don’t need much else.” 

“I hope you’re right. But I will need to find a new home for Missy and Moo before winter comes.” Tears filled her eyes again. “Missy is my baby. It will break my heart to see her go.”

“Well, maybe it won’t come to that, Frannie. Maybe things will—”

Charlie was interrupted by Penny’s voice on the monitor. “Fran…” She stood up, dried her tears and ran to her mother’s side.  

“Are you doing okay, Mama?” she asked. Penny looked pale and suddenly very old. 

She shook her head. “I think that pill has worn off, child. Am I due for another?” 

Fran nodded her head. “You haven’t had one since this morning. Water or juice?”

“Water, please. And no tea this time,” Penny smiled. “And thank you.” 

“You’re welcome, Mama.” Fran left her side and walked to the kitchen past the painful reminder that sat on the table. Charlie was by her side in minutes. 

“How’s your Mama?” 

“She isn’t well. I wish she would have at least done something to help herself. Maybe she wouldn’t be suffering like this. I’d call the doctor, but we don’t have much to give him anymore.” 

“Sweetie, call him anyway. We will figure something out. If she needs help, we can’t deny her that.” Charlie wrapped his arms around her, but when she opened the cabinet to get a water glass, her pills fell onto the counter. “What’s that?” 

“My birth control. I haven’t started it yet. I don’t have the heart to.” Charlie nodded and understood. Fran walked back to Penny and handed her the water and a pill. “I’m calling Dr. Miller, Mama.” 

“No, Fran, I’m alright—” Penny tried to protest. 

“This isn’t negotiable, Mama. He’s coming. I need to know.” She walked from the room and dialed the doctor’s office and arranged a visit after his office hours. 

*****

At six-thirty that evening, Dr. Miller rang the doorbell of the Farmer house. Fran answered the door and took him aside before he went into Penny’s room. “She isn’t well today,” Fran informed him. “I’m afraid to leave her during the day, and it’s affecting our bottom line here on the farm.”

“Let me take a look at her, and I’ll give you my opinion. You know, her insurance might cover an aide to help you during the day, Fran. I’ll have my secretary check on that for you and have her get back to you tomorrow.” Fran nodded as he walked to Penny’s room.

“Hi, Jon,” Penny greeted him weakly. “How’s your family?” 

Dr. Miller laughed. “You making small talk isn’t going to stop me from checking you out, Penny. But to answer your question, we’re all fine, thank you.” He listened to her heart and felt around her belly. This time, he was able to feel the tumor, as it had obviously grown and he suspected had spread. “Well, your heart still sounds good, but I’m afraid that’s the only good news I have for you, Penny. I can feel the tumor.”

“What does that mean?” Penny asked. 

“Just a minute. Fran needs to be here for this.” He stepped out of the room and called Fran and Charlie. When all three of them were in the room together, Dr. Miller spoke again. “I can feel your mother’s tumor now, Fran. I suspect cancer has spread, and with her pain increasing, I believe we’re looking at weeks instead of months.” Fran’s face went pale, and Charlie hugged her close. “I’m very sorry, Fran. I know this is not what you wanted to hear.”

“Please keep her comfortable, doctor. That’s all I ask. She’s been suffering so,” Fran wept.

“Don’t worry, Fran. I will take care of her. And don’t worry about bartering. I know this has put a strain on your finances. Consider it my gift to your family.” He prepared an injection and administered it. 

“Thank you,” she cried, wrapped in Charlie’s arms. 

“I’ll show myself out. And I’ll see you tomorrow evening, Penny.” 

“Thank you, Jon,” Penny answered. 

Fran wept in Charlie’s arms. “I can’t go back to the market, Charlie. I can’t leave her.” 

He kissed her cheek and nodded. “It’s okay, sweetie. We’ll figure this out.” 

In her hospital bed, Penny laid her head back on her pillow and fell asleep, relieved of her pain and comfortable for the first time in weeks.


Two weeks later, Penny’s condition had deteriorated quickly. A nurse was in the home at all times with her to care for her and make sure she was kept comfortable. She slept most of the time, but Fran didn’t mind. If she was sleeping, she wasn’t in pain. Afraid to leave her side, Fran stayed with her as much as she could between caring for the animals and the house.

The nurse, Debra, was sitting with Penny when Fran finished breakfast and the dishes that morning. “Deb, I need to care for Missy and Moo. I’ll be back inside in about an hour. If you need me, that’s where I’ll be.” 

Fran was dressed in her work overalls and boots, and with a bucket in her hand, she walked to the cow barn to gather milk. She had the customary apples in her pocket and Missy greeted her with a hearty moo. “Good morning, Missy,” she said as she patted the cow’s neck. Moo lumbered over to greet Fran and to collect her treat. “And hello, Moo,” she greeted the young heifer. She milked Missy and brought the bucket inside to the refrigerator and returned to the barn. The stalls needed to be mucked and refreshed and it was a big job. The chicken coop, though it needed similar cleaning, would need to wait until the following day. She spread feed on the floor of the coop, collected the few eggs the hens had laid and returned to the house.

After a shower, Fran felt rejuvenated and fresh. A soft knock came at the front door, and she was surprised to see Sunny Bradford standing there. “Hi Sun!” she greeted her friend. “What brings you this way?” 

“Well, we all heard that your mama isn’t doing well, and we took up a collection for you and Charlie at the market. We know you’ve had some hardships this year. We want to take some of that burden from you and take care of you.” Fran could hardly believe her ears. Sunny handed her a thick envelope stuffed with money she had collected from her friends at the market.

“I-I don’t know what to say,” Fran said, astounded. “Thank you so much!” As she hugged her friend, tears streamed down her cheeks. “You have no idea what we’ve had to endure this year.” 

But Sunny did know. Appaloosa Plains was a small town and everyone knew everyone else’s business. She knew when Penny had fallen ill, that Charlie and Fran had gotten less than favorable news at the doctor, and that they were struggling. The Farmers didn’t deserve the hardship they had been enduring, and Sunny decided they didn’t need to endure it alone. Her collection brought much-needed money for Charlie and Fran, which meant they could keep the farm for one more season. It was just what they would need to survive the winter with their livelihood intact.

“It’s really nothing,” Sunny replied. “We all love you, and this is what friends do for each other.”

“This is… a life-changer, Sun. We can’t thank you enough.” Fran hugged her again. 

“If there is anything you need, Fran, don’t hesitate to call Caleb or me. I mean it. We watch out for one another. You’ve certainly done your share of caring for us over the years.” 

Fran sniffled, still in total disbelief. “Charlie and I love you guys. Please let everyone at the market know how much we appreciate them and love them.” 

“Will do,” Sunny replied. “I need to get back. The kids need me. But you take care of your mama, and let us take care of you. We love you.” 

“Thank you again. We’ll see you soon.” When Sunny left the house, Fran opened the envelope and counted the contents. With every bill she counted, she cried more in complete disbelief. When she finished, she looked towards the heavens, clasped her hands together and whispered, “Thank you.” 

*****

Charlie returned home from work to an uncharacteristic kiss from Fran and giggles of glee. “Why are you so happy today? This isn’t what I was expecting.” 

“I’ll show you,” she chirped, took his hand and led him to the dining room table. She picked up the envelope and handed it to him, and she chuckled when she saw his eyes widen. 

“What is this?”

“Sunny Bradford came by a little while ago and gave us that, Charlie. They took up a collection at the market. They know we’re struggling. And they blessed us with this. It’s two thousand, four hundred simoleons.” Exactly double what they had paid for Penny’s medical equipment. “We can keep Missy and Moo.” 

Charlie shook his head in disbelief. “This is unbelievable. Fran, I’m so happy for you, for us.” He felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from him. 

“I know. But I prayed for a miracle, Charlie, and it was answered in abundance.” Fran wiped tears from her eyes. “This is our miracle.” 

He embraced her and rocked her in his arms. “We are incredibly blessed.” 

“I’ll go to the bank tomorrow and deposit it,” she said. “Right now, I need to start supper. I haven’t even thought about what to make, but it needs to be easy.”

“You don’t have to fuss for me, sweetie. Will your mama eat something with us?” 

“Mama hasn’t eaten anything in two days. I don’t think she will be with us much longer, Charlie.” Fran sighed deeply. “I’m trying to prepare myself for the inevitable, but it’s not easy.” 

“Death is natural, but it’s difficult to bear when it happens to someone you love.” He kissed her cheek. “I will be here for you when you need me the most.” 

“Thank you, Charlie.” 

Fran made a quick and easy supper of grilled cheese, and with the evening nurse on shift, Fran and Charlie retired early. Before they went to bed, Fran sat with Penny for half an hour holding her hand. And though she had been asleep for most of the day, when she felt Fran’s hand touch her, Penny opened her eyes. 

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“Hi, my sweet Fran,” she whispered. “I need to know you’re going to be okay, child. Is Charlie taking care of you?” 

Fran’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes, Mama, Charlie is taking good care of me.” 

“Good,” she replied weakly. “That’s good.” 

“Mama?” 

“Yes, baby girl?” 

“I love you. Thank you for being my mama.” 

“Oh Fran, I loved being your mama. You were worth every tear, all the frustration we suffered to have you. I wish I could see your babies. I bet you’ll have a baby girl someday who looks just like you. I will love you until the end of time, my sweet Frannie.” Penny closed her eyes and spoke no more. 

“I’m not ready to let you go, Mama,” Fran cried. “But if you leave this world tonight, say hi to Daddy for me.” She kissed Penny’s forehead and squeezed her hand gently. She turned to the nurse, named Heather, and said, “Please let me know if you think…” she couldn’t finish her sentence. 

“Don’t worry, Miss Frannie. I will get you.” Heather hugged her and swallowed a lump in her own throat. Fran’s dedication to her mother was admirable, and it touched her deeply.

A few hours later, Heather’s frantic knock sounded on their bedroom door. Fran wasn’t really asleep. She knew this was coming. “Miss Fran, Mr. Charlie, please come now!” she said through the door. They both grabbed their robes and made their way downstairs quickly. 

When they arrived, Penny was clinging to life by a thread. Her breathing was shallow, and she was not conscious. Fran sat on the bed, held her hand and rubbed Penny’s fingers between hers. “She can hear you,” Heather told them. “She might be waiting for you.” 

Fran squeezed her hand and choked back a sob. “Mama, I’m going to be okay. We are going to be okay.” She took a breath and exhaled slowly. “It’s okay to go.” She reached to brush a lock of hair from Penny’s face when she felt her hand being squeezed lightly. Penny took one last breath and exhaled, and she slipped away peacefully. 

Heather had just stepped toward her to verify Penny’s passing when the stench of death entered the room. The being known and feared throughout all of Simville as The Reaper materialized from a black fog. He carried a scythe, dressed in a black robe with a chain belt and had no discernable limbs, only finger-like protrusions that appeared as smoke. He looked around the room and seeing Fran’s terrified expression took pity on her and worked quickly and silently. With the swoop of his scythe, Penny was gone and in her place, a small, white alabaster urn was left. As quickly as he came, The Reaper vanished into the same black fog and took the foul scent with him. When the air cleared, it was though he was never there at all, except for a set of black footprints on the wood floor where he stood. 

“I am so sorry Miss Fran,” Heather said sadly. It wasn’t the first time she had seen The Reaper, but it was the first time she had seen him leave footprints. Heather held her arms open to give her a hug, but Fran collapsed on Penny’s bed, sobbing uncontrollably. 

Charlie hugged Heather and thanked her, picked Fran up off the bed and carried her upstairs to their bedroom.

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Up Next: Chapter Seven, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee:

Spladoum (MTS)


Custom Content:

Paper with Calculator, Mail Pile, Vase of Roses, Juice, Glasses, Tray, and Pills by Sandy at Around The Sims 3

Hospital Set (Bed) by Hekate999 at ModTheSims

Custom content and poses are not my property and have been used in compliance with the TOUs. If I forgot credits for CC, please know it was not intentional.

Generation One Is Live!

Hello Sim Fans! I have some (obvious) news if you have been following on Twitter or Facebook, you already know the first five chapters of my Generation One rewrites are live on the WordPress blog. They are brand new content, completely rewritten and I think improved. I can’t wait to share the entire Gen One story with you.

That said, the rest of the chapters will go live one by one as they are finished and edited. Right now, I only have nine full chapters written with a possible twenty planned. It turns out, when you are writing events that cover almost forty years, it takes a few written words to tell the story. So keep your eyes out for the rest of the story.

Generation Five is still on hiatus until the rewrites are complete and posted in their entirety. That doesn’t mean that Andy and Danae are going away any time soon. We’re just paused on the Murphy era for a little while longer.

I will be continuing to work on the other four chapters I have written and get them on the WordPress blog over the weekend. It’s not exactly how I had planned it, but I also wasn’t counting being ill, either. C’est la vie.

I hope that you’ll stay tuned for the rest of Charlie and Fran’s story. Thank you tons for reading, and I welcome and even encourage comments on the chapters. We’ll see you in Appaloosa Plains!

G1 Chapter Five – When It Rains, It Pours

Four years later…

The ground had begun to thaw and springtime planning for the farm was well underway. Caleb was scheduled to till the garden within the week. Charlie had just finished a bigger coop for the chickens and Missy’s calf, a young heifer named Moo settled into her place on the farm. Fran had another bunch of seedlings and mature plants to move into a garden plot once the ground was prepared. 

Charlie spread a thick layer of manure over the garden plot and incorporated it into the soil. Caleb’s tiller would work the rest of the magic, and for his troubles this year he would get the pick of the manure pile in the back of the barn in addition to a dozen chicks, some fresh eggs, cheese and preserves from Fran’s prize garden. 

Penny sat in her rocking chair almost constantly and only got up as she needed and nothing more. Her hands were stiff with arthritis and she had slowed considerably over the past six months. Fran was concerned about her and called her doctor for a home visit since she knew it would be nearly impossible to get her out of the house. 

Fran was up early to help Charlie in the yard. Together they cleaned up the debris from winter storms, stacked wood that was delivered the week before, and set up their compost bin for the coming season. The barn door was open, Missy and Moo were in the pasture. The two grazed on the tender grass and enjoyed the cool spring morning. Fran approached both cows with a half apple in her pocket for each of them. Moo lowed happily when Fran walked to them. 

“Good morning my babies,” she greeted her cows. Missy huffed and walked to Fran, her neck outstretched for her morning treat. Moo, being younger and more eager, nudged her way in front of Missy. It was a familiar ritual, and it made Fran laugh. Each of them took their treats and as usual, Missy looked for more than she needed. Fran patted them on the neck. “Enjoy your morning, girls,” she said. 

Charlie was in the chicken coop. With the floor swept and fresh bedding spread he was nearly done when Fran opened the door. “Good morning, love,” he greeted her. 

“Hey,” she answered and walked to him to plant a kiss on his cheek. “How’s it going in here?” 

“Not too bad!” he replied. “How’s your mama?” 

“I’m worried, Charlie. But I called her doctor to come to see her today. I’m waiting on a return call.” 

“That’s all you can do, Frannie.” He too was worried about his mother-in-law. She hadn’t been herself in months.

“I’m glad you’re home from work this week. I could use all the hands I can get with the greenhouse. When is Caleb coming?” 

Charlie paused. “I think before Friday, but I’d have to check for certain. Would you like me to see if we can bump up a little?” 

“Would you? I could really use your help while you’re on vacation. Without the garden tilled, I’m wasting precious time.” She took a pitchfork and spread a little more straw out on the floor. 

“I’m on it, sweetie,” he said. In the house, he heard the phone ring. “You should probably run for that, Frannie.” 

She ran for the back door and barely made the phone before the caller hung up. Out of breath, she answered it.

“Hello?” 

“Mrs. Farmer, this is Dr. Miller. I have a message about your mother, Penny. How is she doing?” 

“Dr. Miller, hi,” she said. “Thank you for returning my call so quickly. She just doesn’t seem well today. Could I impose on you to see her this afternoon after your office hours? I don’t think I could get her into our pickup truck very easily. She is a stubborn old lady,” Fran chuckled.  

“I’d be glad to, Fran.” Dr. Miller had been Penny’s doctor for ages and knew the family well. “Watch for me around six, if that’s okay with you?” 

“It is, thank you, doctor. Can we arrange a barter? Do you need something we can give you?” 

“No, no Fran. You save your things for what you truly need. Your mother and I go way back. Let me do this for her.”  

Fran was surprised. “Thank you so much!” she chirped. “We’ll see you then.” She walked into the living room where Penny sat in the rocker, her gaze fixed on the fireplace. “Mama, Dr. Miller is coming tonight to see you.” 

Penny grumbled. “I wish you wouldn’t have done that, child. I’m fine. I am just in pain.” 

“There is no reason to suffer if you don’t need to, Mama. Let me take care of you.” Fran leaned to kiss Penny’s forehead. 

“Well, I appreciate it, but you should be taking care of Charlie. Don’t worry about this old lady.” 

Fran laughed. “Well, that’s not going to happen, Mama. I’ll take care of you as long as I need to.”

“You’re just like your mama, Fran. Stubborn.” 

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she smiled at her mother. “Rest, Mama. Charlie and I are working in the yard today. Call my phone if you need anything.” She put the phone handset on the side table where Penny sat. 

“Thank you, child. I’ll be just fine.” Penny laid her head back on the chair and closed her eyes.

*****

Right after six o’clock that evening, the doorbell rang. Charlie was cleaning up dishes from supper and Penny sat in the living room, still in her rocking chair. Fran had just brought Penny a cup of tea. “I’ll get it, Charlie,” she called to him.

Dr. Miller stood at the door, his medical bag in his hand. “Hi Fran,” he greeted her. “How’s your mother tonight?” 

Fran showed him in. “She’s been here all day. She says she’s in pain.” 

Penny grumbled. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not right here, child. I can speak for myself. Hi, Jon,” she greeted the doctor. “I really don’t know why my daughter called for you. I tell her I’m fine.” 

“Well, since I’m here, let me take a look at you.” He took her hand and led her into the sitting room where there was a bit more privacy. “Please excuse us, Fran.” 

“Absolutely,” she agreed and walked back to the kitchen to help Charlie.

Penny sat on the loveseat in the sitting room and exhaled. “I’m sorry, Jon. Fran shouldn’t have called you here—”

“Now now, Penny,” he interrupted her. “She is concerned about you, and while I’m here I need to at least look at you. Where is your pain?” 

Penny laughed. “It might be less time to tell you where I don’t hurt. I’m just getting old.”

“Being old doesn’t always mean being in pain. Let me run some tests at the hospital, Penny. I’d like to figure out what’s making you miserable.” 

Penny shook her head in defiance. “No, Jon. I’ve lived long enough. Please, just let me live out the rest of my days with my family at my side. I’m ready to go be with Jake.” 

“You know, without knowing what’s wrong I can’t treat your pain, Penny. I’ll give you some time to consider it, but I’m suggesting it to Fran. Maybe she can talk some sense into you.” 

“Dang it, Jon,” Penny grumbled. “Please just let me be.” 

“You know I can’t do that, Penny. I’ll see you in my office in a week so we can schedule you.” Dr. Miller packed his equipment back into his bag and closed it. “No argument from you.” He pointed a long, slender finger at his favorite patient. “I mean it.” 

Penny sighed deeply. “You win, Jon. I’ll be there.” 

The doctor smiled. “I care about you, Penny. Your whole family. They deserve to know, and so do you.” Penny grumbled under her breath and waved him away and he chuckled. He walked into the living room and called for Fran.

She walked from the kitchen, a towel in her hands. “So, how is she, doc?” 

“I’m going to see her in my office next week to schedule her for testing at the hospital. I’d like to keep her for a few days so we can evaluate what is causing her pain. Of course, she wants no part of any of it but you and Charlie deserve to know what you’re dealing with.” He shook his head. “She isn’t well, Fran, but without testing, I can’t be sure what’s going on. I know you’re busy this week, so bring her as a walk-in next week when you have time. I’ll make room for her.”

Fran’s heart sank but she nodded. “I’ll bring her myself. Thank you, Dr. Miller.” She walked him to the front door and waved as he drove away, turned and walked back into the house. Penny was on her way up the steps. She did not look at her daughter. Fran rushed to help her, but Penny pulled away from her. “Mama, what’s wrong?” 

“You opened a can of worms I wanted to be left closed, child. I’m not happy with you right now.” Penny made her way to her room. “I’d like to be left alone tonight, Fran,” she said and closed her bedroom door.

Fran walked back down the steps to where Charlie sat in the living room. He noticed the tears in her eyes and stood to hold her. “What happened with your mama?”

“Oh, she’s angry with me for calling Dr. Miller. He wants to admit her to the hospital and run some tests, and she doesn’t want any part of it.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “Did I do the wrong thing, Charlie?” 

“No, love, you didn’t. It’s natural to want to help her. She’s your mama and you love her.” He kissed her tenderly. “Let’s get some rest, Frannie. We have a long day tomorrow. Caleb will be here in the morning to till the garden.” 

That news made her smile. “You arranged it earlier?” Charlie smiled at her and nodded. “Thank you, babe.” 

“For you, my Frannie, anything.” He took her hand and led her upstairs to their bedroom.


Fran and Charlie brought Penny to the hospital early on a Monday morning for admission and tests. She was still very angry with Fran and their relationship was strained because of it. Nevertheless, the three of them walked into the hospital together. 

Once she was settled into her room, Penny ignored Fran while they stood there. The cold shoulder only served to make Fran feel guilty, Penny’s desired result. After thirty minutes of silence in the hospital room, she turned to Charlie. “I think it’s time to go.”

He walked to Penny and kissed her forehead. “Penny, this needs to stop. You’re here and there isn’t anything you can do about it now. She has your best interest at heart.”

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Penny said nothing as Fran approached her. She kissed her mother’s cheek and squeezed her hand. “I love you, Mama. We’ll be back tomorrow to visit.” 

“Don’t bother,” Penny spat. “Just leave me here to die.” 

Fran bit her lip as they turned to go. Charlie was not happy when he saw the tears welled in Fran’s eyes. They were only two steps out of the room when she broke down crying. “What did I do, Charlie, to make her hate me so?” 

They stopped walking and he looked into her green eyes. “You did nothing wrong, sweetheart. She is very stubborn, but she will get over this, and it will pass. Please don’t cry, honey. You did the right thing.” 

“It doesn’t feel right, Charlie. She is so angry with me.” 

“Shh, it’s okay, love. I promise.” 

They drove to the diner to waste time before their appointment with a fertility specialist. In the four years since the miscarriage, they had failed to become pregnant. They had both undergone preliminary testing a month before and were getting results that afternoon. Coupled with the stress of Penny’s hospital stay, Fran was on edge, her emotions ran high as they sipped tea.

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“What’s on your mind, Frannie?” Charlie asked.

“Everything,” she replied. “Mama, this appointment. I want to know why we can’t conceive a baby. Every month, it’s the same disappointment over and over. My heart can’t take much more pain.” 

“We will have answers before very long.” He glanced at his watch. “We only have an hour to wait.” 

“I’m scared, Charlie. What if there is something wrong with me? Mama said she and Daddy had a hard time having me. What if that is my legacy?”

He took her hand and squeezed it. “Baby, I’m sure it’s not. It’s probably poor timing. My parents went years before I was born, too. It happens sometimes.” 

“I hope you’re right.” She pushed her teacup away from her. “I’m finished. I can’t drink another sip of it.” 

“I’m ready, too.” He stood and took her hand. “Let’s go get this over with, shall we?” Fran only nodded her head and followed him to the truck.

At the specialist’s office, they took a seat after checking in. Fran’s foot tapped on the floor nervously and Charlie took her hand. “Frannie, my love, we’re going to be okay. Whatever happens, remember I love you.” 

“I know,” she replied. “I’m just afraid of what awaits us behind that door. Will you still love me if I can’t bear you a child, Charlie?” 

“What kind of silly question is that?” He kissed her hand and stroked her cheek tenderly. “I am going to love you forever and a day. You can count on that.”

“Charles and Frances?” the nurse called. Charlie chuckled. The only person who ever called him ‘Charles’ was his mother. They stood together and he squeezed her hand as they walked toward the door. “This way, please,” the nurse said as she led them to the doctor’s office. They were seated on the opposite side of the desk to wait for the doctor. 

“Thank you,” Charlie said. In the quiet room, the only sound he heard was Fran’s sniffles. “Sweetie, you’re okay.” 

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“I don’t feel well, Charlie. My nerves are shot.” She took a tissue from the desk and dabbed her eyes. He pulled his chair closer to hers and held her while they waited. 

Nearly half an hour later, the doctor entered the room. Charlie stood and shook the doctor’s hand but Fran stayed seated. “Charlie, Fran, it’s good to see you both again,” Dr. Prisco said as she sat behind her desk. She tapped on her computer and logged into the medical records and retrieved the Farmer file. “Let’s see what we have here.” The computer slowly worked to access the needed files, so the doctor tapped on her desk. “How have you been, Fran? Are you still taking the prenatal vitamins Dr. Engle gave you?” 

She nodded her head. “I have been, yes. Sometimes I don’t know why, though.” Fran’s head started to spin and she felt as though she would pass out. 

“Would you like a glass of water? You don’t look well.” 

“No,” she replied. “I just need to get up and stretch a moment.” Fran stood up and nearly fell. Charlie stood quickly to steady her. 

“Are you okay, love?” Charlie asked her. 

“I’m just so scared about the results of these tests,” she wept. 

Dr. Prisco smiled and folded her hands. “Well, I can tell you, Fran, that your tests came back very positive. Your ovaries are healthy, your hormone levels are normal, your womb is ready to carry a fetus. So if that’s your main worry, you can relax.” 

Fran breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short-lived. “So, if I’m okay, then why are we having problems?” 

The doctor sat up in her chair, the expression on her face more somber. “Charlie, your tests were much different. On the sample we took from you, over ninety percent of your sperm had chromosomal abnormalities. Have you been exposed to chemicals or toxins at work or anywhere at home?” 

Charlie felt the blood drain from his face. “I am in the military, and I was deployed four years ago during the plague outbreak in Dragon Valley.” He couldn’t even look at Fran. “I was exposed to the virus and the subsequent treatments.” He shook his head. “I was given a lot of stuff. I can get a list of the substances I was exposed to if—”

“No, no, that’s okay, Charlie. There is good news in this, however. There actually were a few, and by a few, I mean a small percentage, viable sperm that could produce a healthy baby. The bad news here is that it won’t likely happen on its own. In fact, the best thing to do at this point is to prevent pregnancy. I know you miscarried at eight weeks a few years back. With this knowledge, it would be my opinion this was the reason for the miscarriage.”

Charlie sat back in his chair, stunned. “So where do we go from here? Not having a child is not an option.” 

“There is really only one option at this point: In vitro fertilization. However, because the procedure used to ensure a healthy embryo is intricate, it is fairly expensive.”

“How much are we talking?” he asked.

“With all included, we’re looking at over twenty-five thousand simoleons per attempt.” 

Fran wept quietly. Even with Charlie’s decent salary and the farm income, it would easily take ten years to save for just one try. Motherhood now seemed like a distant dream instead of a sure thing. Charlie slumped in his chair. “Does insurance usually cover this?” 

The doctor shook her head. “This procedure is highly experimental right now and is not usually covered by insurance. I wish I had better news for you. There’s always using a donor for sperm if you would like. That is almost half the cost of using yours, Charlie, I’m sorry to say.” 

That isn’t helping, he thought. “Well, at least now we know what we’re dealing with. I guess I take every extra shift until we can afford this.” 

“Do you have any other questions for me? Would you be interested in using a donor—”

“NO!” Fran interrupted, incensed that the doctor would even suggest such a thing. “The baby is Charlie’s, or we don’t do it.” She wept openly, reaching for him to hold her. “I don’t want anyone else’s baby but Charlie’s.” 

The doctor nodded. “I understand. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.” She handed Charlie a business card. “I don’t need to see you back until you decide you wish to proceed. And Fran, you may discontinue the prenatal vitamins. You might wish to begin using birth control as well.” 

Charlie sighed heavily. “Thank you. We’ll be in touch.” They both stood to leave, and he guided Fran out the door. 

It wasn’t until they reached the truck and got in that Fran unleashed a torrent of tears. And Charlie felt extremely guilty that he was the reason they couldn’t have a child. He put his arm around her and hugged her close to him. The look on her face broke his heart. 

“Frannie, I’m sorry I’m the problem. I never considered all those treatments would affect us. Affect our baby.”

“Oh Charlie, it isn’t your fault. You were exposed to the plague. What should they have done, let you die?” 

“My life was never at risk, but I’m starting to think maybe it would be better for you if I had. Baby, I’m so sorry.” He couldn’t look at her. 

“Please, just take me home. My heart can’t handle any more hurt.” Fran sighed heavily, a sob stifled in the back of her throat. Between the feud with her mother and this new revelation, she was emotionally exhausted. 

“As you wish, sweetheart,” Charlie said. Never before had he felt so defeated.


The next morning, Fran was up early to feed the animals and tend the bees. Charlie was up, but he was not around inside the house. She called him but no answer came. Out in the yard, she expected to see him weeding the plants, but he was not outside, either. She walked to the garage and saw his truck sitting in its spot and she felt a wave of relief wash over her. If the truck was there, he hadn’t gone far.

She was halfway done weeding the garden when Charlie appeared in the yard dressed for a jog. “There you are,” she chirped when she saw him. “I wondered where you were. I looked everywhere.” 

“You didn’t see my note?” He stretched his muscles and sat on the ground, his knees drawn into his chest. 

“Where did you leave it? There was no note anywhere.” 

“On the counter near the coffee maker. I thought for sure you’d see it there.” Charlie rubbed his sore feet. He desperately needed a new pair of running shoes, but the budget was razor-thin.

“If your truck had been gone, I’d have been more worried.” She stood up. “I can’t get much done before I go see Mama. Dr. Miller has her morning taken up with tests, but I’d like to be there when she wakes up.” 

“If you’d like some company, I’d love to go with you,” he offered. 

“Why wouldn’t I want your company, Charlie?” 

“Since yesterday, I’ve felt guilty. I’m just not enough for you anymore.” 

Fran stood and looked at Charlie, a trowel in her hand. She placed the tool on the ground and held her hand for him to stand. And when he did, she hugged him. “Charlie, you will always be enough for me, baby or no baby.” 

“I can’t give you the one thing you want the most. I’ve failed you, Frannie. I should have died of the plague.” 

“It hurts me to hear you speak like this, Charlie. Please don’t.” She took his hand. “Let’s go shower and get ready to see Mama.” 

A couple of hours later, when they knew Penny would be in her room, they got into the truck and drove to the hospital to visit. She was having lunch when Fran knocked softly on the door. “Mama?” 

“Come in, child,” she called out. They both walked to her bed. Fran sat on the edge while Charlie sat in a chair nearby. “What’s wrong with you?” 

Fran always wore her emotions on her sleeve for Penny to see, and this day was no different. “We got some bad news yesterday at the doctor, but it’s nothing.” 

Penny’s expression softened. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” 

“She’s okay,” Charlie spoke. “But I’m not. I’m the reason we can’t have children, Penny. It’s my fault.” 

“What do you mean, Charlie?” Penny asked. “I don’t understand.”

“When I was exposed to the plague in Dragon Valley, the treatments they gave me damaged me. Less than ten percent of my sperm is any good. The doctor suggested we prevent pregnancy until we’re ready to do a twenty-five thousand simoleon procedure.”

“Twenty-five thousand?” Penny’s eyes welled with tears. “Where are you going to get that kind of money?” 

“We’re going to save it, Mama,” Fran said confidently. “We’re not going to stop trying until they place a wiggly, pink babe into our arms. Right, Charlie?” 

He was emotional for the first time since the doctor’s appointment the previous day, and he wept. “Right, Frannie,” was all he managed to squeak out. 

Penny lowered her eyes. “Fran, I owe you an apology sweetheart. I’m sorry I’ve been such a burden to you and Charlie. I’m sorry I’ve been so bitter with you. I know you want what is best for me.”

Fran walked to her mother and embraced her. “It’s nothing, Mama. You’re forgiven.” 

“Oh, but it is something, child. You have enough on your plate without me causing you trouble. And I’m sorry, to both of you.”  

Charlie had managed to collect himself. “You’re fine, Penny. I’m glad we could be here for you when you need us.” 

An hour into the visit and the three of them were chatting happily together, talking about the farm and the upcoming market season. Dr. Miller peeked his head in the door, saw the family together and knocked. “Penny, how are you feeling?” he asked as he approached his patient.

“I’m miserable, Jon. I hope you have some news for me.” Penny groaned in pain. 

“Actually, I’m glad you’re all here. I do have some results from this morning’s tests.” He sat down on a chair and faced all three of them. “We discovered part of the reason you have pain, Penny. The scan revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball on your liver. We need to do a biopsy and another scan to see if—”

Penny shook her head. “You’re not going to do any such thing, Jon. I have lived enough of my life, and I am ready to go be with my Jake. The only thing I wish is that I’m kept comfortable—” A sob interrupted her.

“Mama, you can’t just refuse treatment. You’ll die.” If an earthquake struck Appaloosa Plains right under her feet, Fran couldn’t have been more shaken than she was at that moment. 

“I can, child. And I will. I have no desire to go through treatment and for what? Another six painful months? No, Fran. I’m ready to go be with your daddy, whenever that will be.” 

“I’m sorry I don’t have better news, Fran,” the doctor said. “I promise I will keep her as comfortable as I can.”

“That’s not good enough!” she cried. “I need you, Mama!” 

“You have Charlie, and he will take care of you for me. Besides, I’m sure I’m not going to die tomorrow.” 

“Without further testing, it will be difficult to know exactly, but I estimate four to six months at a minimum.” Dr. Miller patted Fran on the shoulder. “I’m very sorry.” 

For the second time in less than a day, Fran’s world was shaken to its core. 

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Up Next: Chapter Six, Generation One



Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee:

Skylar Arden’s Zutara 2 “Broken” at Skylar’s Sanctuary

Custom Content:

Hospital For Storytelling by Jamee at Jamee’s Sims 3
(CC used within the hospital is listed at Jamee’s Sims 3)
Charlie’s Dog Tag Accessory by NataliS at TSR
Nouk’s Long Wavy Hair (Fran’s Hair) by Anubis360 at ModTheSims

Custom content and poses are not my property and have been used in compliance with the TOUs. 

G1 Chapter Four – Charlie’s Return Home

Fran awakened in a chilly bedroom, but instead of shivering in the cold, she snuggled into Charlie’s arms. He stirred slightly and woke, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her shoulder. Since he had arrived home two days earlier, they hadn’t spent much time outside their bedroom. That was the plan on this day as well. 

Charlie had called Penny ahead of his arrival home to arrange to have the house to themselves. He knew he would be home earlier than he’d planned, and he wanted to surprise Fran. Penny was happy to grant the young newlyweds some privacy. They had one more full day to be alone before Penny was due home and Charlie would need to return to base. For now, he simply held his wife and caressed her skin. He’d forgotten how soft she was, and he could barely stop touching her.

“I can’t believe I didn’t know you were going to be early,” she purred. “I really can’t believe Mama left on her own to give us some space.”  

“She was a newlywed once, too, Frannie. She knows all about this stuff, whether you recognize it or not.” Charlie kissed her shoulders and caressed her neck. 

“I need to take care of the animals this morning, Charlie. They shouldn’t be—”

“Are you going to let me do your chores, Frannie? I hope so,” he interrupted her. “You’ve worked all summer long. Don’t you need a break?”

“I do, but you’ve worked nine long months, Charlie. I should be taking care of you.” 

“We’re in this together, my love. And right now I want to spoil you. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon to give you that baby we want so badly.” He kissed her as he got up from the bed and got dressed. “You stay put, or make breakfast if you’d like. Either way, I want you to take it easy. The work will still be there when you’re ready for it, Frannie.” 

She got up and put her robe on and followed him down the stairs. She started the coffee pot and dough for some biscuits. Charlie walked out to the barn to care for the animals. A light dusting of snow had fallen overnight. 

Missy lumbered to him looking for her morning treat, and he patted her nose gently. “Yes Missy, I have your apple for you.” Cora looked slightly less impressed by Charlie’s presence even with the apple, but he knew Cora was a surly old cow. Nevertheless, he fed her the apple he had cut for her and patted her neck. “Good girl, Cora,” he praised her. 

Charlie’s visit to the chicken coop was much less eventful. The hens clucked as he collected eggs and the old rooster stared at him expectantly. Charlie laughed as he spread feed on the floor of the coop. Later, he would come out and clean it thoroughly, and in the spring, he would build a bigger, roomier coop for them. For now, the brood was content, and that was good enough for Charlie.

He kicked his boots off at the sunroom door and stepped into the kitchen where the smells and sounds of breakfast awaited him. Fresh biscuits with preserves, eggs, sausage, and gravy. It was one of his favorite meals. Fran had just pulled the biscuits from the oven as she finished the gravy. “It’s ready, love,” she said. “If you’re pouring coffee, I’ll have a cup.” 

Charlie grabbed two mugs from the cabinet and filled them. Cream and sugar were already on the table, so he helped Fran bring plates to the dining table. Together they sat and held hands and prayed before their morning meal. It was a practice Fran had resumed while Charlie had been deployed, his unit in her morning prayers. He took a sip of coffee, her hand still in his. “This looks delicious, Frannie. You outdid yourself this morning, love.” 

“Well, I’m sure it’s miles better than what they fed you in Dragon Valley,” she said. “I know the military isn’t known for its chefs.” 

Charlie laughed. “You are right about that. But most mornings we had a hot breakfast so I can’t complain. Sometimes, it was the only hot meal we had.” 

“Tell me more about Dragon Valley, Charlie. What was it like?” 

“Well, the villagers look nothing like we do down here. They’re dark-haired, dark-skinned people with a proud heritage. The village itself looks very old world, nothing is modern. There are farmlands on the west side of the village and older homes to the east along the mountains. The main road, Mithrilen Manor, goes through the middle of town. There’s a theater but it’s all live-action plays instead of movies. There was supposed to be a medieval fair or something in the spring, but the sickness scared them off. I don’t blame them, either. It’s a cute place to visit, but I think I like it here with you much better, my love.” He pulled up a map of Dragon Valley and showed her where the whelps were found. “You can’t believe how many caves exist on this side of the river. I’m sure we missed a few here and there.” 

“It does look rather old, but charming. How many natives were lost in the plague?” 

“Initial reports were well overstated. In addition to the twelve we lost, only another twenty or so actually died from the plague itself. There seemed to be a lot more immunity up there than they originally thought, but our guys walked right into it not suspecting anything. They never had a chance after exposure.” Charlie sighed, emotional. “They were gone in days.” 

She took his hand and held it. “I’m so sorry, love. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to watch them die.” 

“It was, but you know, that kind of thing is what we train for. We always hope we don’t have to use our training, but we all know what we signed up for. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, too.” 

“I hope you don’t have to make that decision. Isn’t there a safer job you can get in town, Charlie? One that won’t take you from me or put your life in danger?” 

“Sweetheart, I risk my life every day walking outside that door. We never know when the Reaper will call us home. We just have to be prepared for every contingency, every factor, so that when it happens we’re not caught off-guard.” 

Fran sighed. “I guess you’re right.” Breakfast had left a mess in the kitchen, and she wasn’t looking forward to cleaning it. But instead of leaving it for Fran, Charlie cleaned up the entire kitchen. When he was done, they met back in their bedroom.

*****

Later that afternoon, Penny turned her key in the door of the house and called up the stairs to give them fair warning she was home. She and Dora never left the county, never went on their shopping trip. Instead, the best friends had the equivalent of a slumber party while her daughter and son-in-law had some much needed time together. Penny carried nothing more than the overnight bag she had brought with her and set it on the living room floor. Upstairs, there was not a sound heard from either room, so Penny walked to the kitchen and started the tea kettle for hot water. 

Fran and Charlie had fallen asleep together and never realized how late it had gotten. But the rest was needed in between their periods of activity. And when a soft rap sounded on their door, Fran realized their lives had returned to normal. “Mama?”

“Yes, child. I wanted to let you two lovebirds know I’m home. But pretend I’m not here. I know you weren’t counting on me until tomorrow.” Fran’s cheeks blushed deep, hot red. 

Charlie heard the exchange and noticed Fran’s obvious embarrassment. “Sweetheart, it’s okay. She’s the one who suggested that we have the house to ourselves. She is not as naive as you think.” 

“We just have to be more considerate of Mama from now on, Charlie. Certainly no walking around in that!” she laughed. He was wearing nothing but a smile. 

“I can agree with that. I don’t want this weekend to end, love. And I really don’t want to go back to work tomorrow.” He kissed her and patted her belly. “But I feel good about that promise.” 

“Well, let’s not tell her we’ve been trying. I don’t want her to be disappointed if it doesn’t happen,” Fran suggested.

“Very well, my love,” Charlie said. “I haven’t seen her in months. I need to give her a proper hello, don’t you think?” 

Fran nodded. “I think you should, Charlie.” 

They both got dressed and went downstairs to greet Penny. Upon seeing him, she hugged her son-in-law and kissed his cheek. “It’s so good to have you home, Charlie!” 

“It’s great to be home,” he said. He moved closer and whispered in Penny’s ear, “Thank you.” 

She patted his hand and gave him a knowing look. “It was no problem.” 


It was only one month until their first wedding anniversary. Fran’s quiet weeping woke Charlie from a sound sleep. Alarmed, he walked to the bathroom to see her clutching a pregnancy test. She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. 

“Oh, baby,” he said and walked to her. He took the stick and looked at it. One pink line. “I’m sorry.” He thought for certain they would have a baby by the end of their first year. But for another month, the dream was crushed.

“I thought it was real this time, Charlie,” she sniffled. “I was late. I had symptoms. But the test shows nothing.” 

“Well, maybe it’s too early, love.” He kissed her forehead. “Wait a week and retest.” 

She got up and threw the stick in the trash. “You’re right.” 

He smiled at her. “As usual.” 

She giggled slightly. “I had no idea when I married Mr. Right, his first name was Always.” 

“Well, Frannie,” he chuckled, “now you know.” He hugged her tightly. “Honey, if we aren’t expecting a baby after a good six months of trying, we can see a specialist, okay?” 

“Okay.” She sighed deeply. “I just want this so badly. I never saw myself not being a mama, Charlie.” 

“Sweetie, you’re only 21 years old. We have a lot of time to have a family.” He kissed her forehead, took her hand and led her back to their bedroom. “Let me do your chores today, Frannie. Relax and let me spoil you.” 

“You’ve done nothing but spoil me since you got back from Dragon Valley. How will I ever get back into my routine?” 

“As I’ve said, the work will always be there when you’re ready, Frannie. When is Missy due?” 

“End of winter by our best estimate. We’re expecting a spring calf.” Missy was getting bigger by the day, but just shy of halfway through. Fran wondered if she was having two calves. 

“Plenty of time then,” Charlie said. “Please Frannie, let me do this for you today.” 

She sighed and plopped down in the chair by her side of the bed. “Alright. You win.” 

Charlie’s eyes sparkled. Oh, how he loved spoiling her. “That’s my girl,” he chirped.

“Don’t forget an extra apple for Missy. She’s eating for two now,” Fran reminded him.

She washed her face and walked downstairs to start the water for tea, but Penny was already up and working on breakfast. Fran had a difficult time concealing her emotions, and Penny knew something was wrong. 

“Good morning, Fran,” she said. “Is everything okay?” 

She nodded her head. “Just a little disappointed is all, Mama.”

Penny knew that pain intimately. She and Jake had a difficult time conceiving Fran and as a result, ended up having her later in life. Penny walked to her daughter and took her hand in hers. “You’re still young, Fran. You have plenty of time.” 

“I’ve never wanted anything this badly, Mama. It’s just frustrating, and we lost nine months while he was deployed.” Tears welled in her eyes and she dabbed them with a tissue.

“Give it time, child. Just a few months is no reason for concern.” Her heart ached for her daughter. “What are you two going to do for your anniversary?” 

“I don’t know. I don’t even have a gift for him yet. Money has been so tight, I haven’t thought about it,” Fran sighed. 

“You know, your daddy and I never exchanged gifts on our anniversary. We usually went to the bistro downtown and that was it. We didn’t have much money either, Fran. Firefighters didn’t earn much back then.” 

“Well, maybe we can do that, too. I would feel terrible if he got something for me and I had nothing for him.” Charlie walked into the kitchen just as she finished talking.

“What’s for me?” he asked, a sly smile on his face.

Fran chuckled. “Nothing. That’s the problem. Charlie, money has been so tight that I have nothing for you for our anniversary.” 

“Oh honey, don’t worry about that. All I need is you, sweetie. Besides, I’m going to take you to supper. That’s all I was planning.” Charlie kissed her cheek. 

“Are you sure, Charlie? I don’t want any surprises when I have nothing for you.” 

“I promise, Frannie. I’ll see you when I get home from work.” 

“I thought you had today off?” Fran asked.

“I did, but I’m covering for someone else. It’s extra hours, and we can use the money.” He kissed her cheek. “It’s not a full shift today, love. I’ll be home before you know it.” 

She nodded her head. “Okay. I’ll see you when you get home.” 


It was a chilly Sunday morning. The snow fell at a blizzard pace and in just a few hours they had gotten almost nine inches of it. Outside was hardly a noise, sounds of the farm muffled by a thick blanket of snow. Charlie finished up chores in the barn and chicken coop and he walked back toward the sunroom. Before he climbed the steps, he paused and looked around the yard and beyond at the wintry surroundings. It was beautiful and peaceful. 

The aroma of fresh coffee and biscuits in the oven greeted him when he walked through the kitchen door. “Good morning, sweetheart,” he said to Fran. “Happy anniversary.” 

She turned her head and smiled. “Good morning, love. Happy anniversary.” He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. It sure feels good to have him here, she thought. Gently, he rocked her in his arms and she turned around to face him.

“You are simply beautiful, my Frannie,” he said. “You’re glowing.” 

“Well, I am pregnant,” she chirped.

“What did the doctor say?” 

“Well, she said everything looked good so far. But I’m only about seven weeks along.” She shifted uncomfortably on her feet. “I have my first ultrasound in a couple of weeks.”

“I have a great feeling about this baby, Frannie. What are we going to name him?” 

She chuckled. “How do you know it’s a boy?” 

“A daddy knows these things, my love. It’s a boy.” 

“What are we doing tonight?” she asked as she finished breakfast for her and Charlie.

“I thought we’d go to the restaurant downtown for supper. How’s that?” He kissed the tip of her nose.

“If you think we can, I would love to.” 

They hardly ever dined out but Charlie had saved a little money for this night. “Of course we can, love.” He caressed her cheek and smiled. “It seems like just yesterday was our wedding day. It went so quickly.”

“Not to me. Every day you weren’t here was miserable. I hope you’re not deployed again.” 

“I hope not, too, but we have to be ready for that, Fran. It may not be a probability, but it’s a possibility we need to consider for all three of us.” He saw her troubled look and hugged her tightly. “I don’t think we have to worry about it anytime soon, sweetie.” 

“You’re probably right.” They carried their plates to the dining room table and sat together. They joined hands and Charlie prayed.

*****

That evening, Fran wore her best dress and Charlie wore his dress uniform for their supper at the restaurant downtown. It wasn’t fancy by most standards, but more upscale than the diner where Fran worked when they reunited. 

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They walked into the bistro and Charlie gave their name. The hostess led them to their table by the window. From it, they could watch the snow falling, children ice skating on the lake behind the park, and families enjoying the snow together. 

Fran, in all her twenty-one years, had never set foot inside the bistro before. She looked around in wonder and squeezed his hand.

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“Are you sure we can afford this, Charlie?”

He nodded his head. “I got a nice bonus last month for service in Dragon Valley. I didn’t tell you because I wanted to surprise you. I know we need to save for the baby, but I wanted to spoil you on our anniversary, Frannie.”

She smiled at him. “This is lovely.”

“And so are you.”

Nearby, a pianist sat and played. They ordered supper and while they waited, Charlie asked her to dance. It was the first time they had danced together since the wedding. He held her close to him and they swayed to the music together. 

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“What’s on your mind, love?” he asked her. 

She gazed around the room and back into his hazel eyes. “What a difference from last year to now,” she replied. “We’re expecting our first baby, we each had a busy year, we spent most of it apart from one another. I’m just amazed by us, Charlie. You promised me a baby, and you delivered it. I want you to know how happy I am, and how much I love you.” She laid her head on his shoulder and he pulled her closer. 

“I am so happy to hear that, Frannie. You have made me the happiest man alive. Thank you for your love.”

Fran smiled, content and loved beyond her wildest dreams. 


Fran was excited about her first appointment with the doctor following the discovery she was pregnant. She took a taxi to the appointment since Charlie was at work that morning.

She checked in and waited, and when her name was called Fran jumped up and nearly skipped to the exam room. 

“The doctor will do an exam, Mrs. Farmer. Please put this on and use the drape to cover up. Dr. Engle will be in shortly.” The assistant handed a cloth gown and sheet to Fran and turned to go.

“Thank you,” Fran replied. She undressed and put on the gown she was given. In just two minutes she was ready.

Dr. Starla Engle entered the room shortly after. “Hi, Fran!” she greeted her friend. “How have you been feeling?”

“Awesome!” Fran chirped.

“No nausea or vomiting?”

“Not yet, no. I’m hoping to skip the whole morning sickness thing,” she chuckled.

“That’s not terribly unusual,” Dr. Engle told her. “We’re going to do an ultrasound today to make sure everything looks good. We’re looking for the fetal heartbeat today which we should detect during the scan, and measuring growth. This will give us a more accurate idea of gestation and your due date. Do you have any questions, Fran?”

“Not yet,” Fran replied.

“We’ll be back shortly,” the doctor told her after the exam. “You may get dressed.”

Fran sat up and got dressed and when she was done laid back on the exam table. She was eager to see their baby. It wouldn’t seem real to her until she could see it.

About 10 minutes later, the technician came into the room towing a portable ultrasound machine. She greeted Fran warmly and introduced herself.

“I’m Katie, and I’ll be doing your ultrasound. So, I know the doctor told you we’re looking for the heartbeat today. I’ll also be measuring and we will determine approximate gestation. You’re about ten weeks, Fran?”

“Give or take,” she replied. She was positive the baby was conceived the weekend Charlie returned home from Dragon Valley.

“The doctor should be able to give you a better idea today.” The tech squeezed a warm glob of gel on to Fran’s belly and positioned the wand. She pointed out the baby on the screen. And suddenly, it was very real.

“That’s our baby?” Fran nearly squealed. “It’s so tiny!”

The tech looked at the screen, furrowed her brow and excused herself. Two minutes later she returned with Dr. Engle in tow. She placed the wand on Fran’s belly again and pointed to something on the screen. The doctor mumbled quietly to the tech and left the room.

She sensed something was wrong, and Fran tensed up. “Is everything okay?” she asked.

“The doctor wants to do a more invasive test. It’s not unusual so there’s no reason for concern.” Katie’s face, however, told a different story. “I know you just got dressed, but I need you to undress from the waist down. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

A sense of panic washed over Fran as she prepared herself. She was ready when Katie re-entered the room with the doctor. She grew more frightened when she saw the doctor’s face and she had to know. “What’s wrong?”

The scan confirmed what Katie had suspected, and the doctor took Fran’s hand. “The baby has no heartbeat, Fran. I’m so sorry.”

Fran felt sick and immediately faint. She could hear nothing but her heart pounding in her ears and her head felt light. “What?!” Tears filled her eyes and she shook her head.

The doctor held Fran’s hand in hers and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry, Frannie, the baby is gone.”

“No!” she cried. The room began to spin and she couldn’t breathe. “Please… No…” were the last words she uttered before she passed out cold.

Charlie was notified immediately and the phone call alarmed him. But he drove to the doctor’s office, scared half to death. When he arrived, the receptionist led him back to the exam room where Fran waited for him. And when she saw him she cried, her heart was broken.

“What’s going on?” he asked the doctor’s assistant.

“The doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat during the ultrasound. The baby has died,” she said coldly. “Now that you’re here, I have other patients.” The assistant didn’t stick around for questions.

Fran looked broken as she cried into her hands. Charlie kneeled beside her and tried to comfort her. But words didn’t come.

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“I’m sorry,” Fran wept. “I lost it, Charlie.”

“Shh, baby, it wasn’t your fault,” he cried. “These things happen sometimes.” He kissed her forehead and wiped tears from her eyes. “What now?”

Fran shook her head. “I don’t know. Dr. Engle wanted to wait until you were here before she went over that stuff.” She took a deep, ragged breath. “I am devastated.”

The doctor walked in with Fran’s chart and greeted the young couple. What should have been a happy event had turned tragic, and the doctor hated it for them. Starla was a family friend and Fran’s babysitter when they were younger. She knew both the Hutchins and Farmer families well.

“What happened?” Charlie asked.

“Well, we failed to detect a fetal heartbeat, Charlie,” the doctor said. “The baby deceased a week or two ago from my best guess. It is approximately 8 weeks gestation. Please accept my sincerest condolences.”

“What happens next?” he asked.

“I recommend that she have a D&C as soon as you can arrange it, the sooner the better. I’m actually surprised her body hasn’t already begun to pass it.”

“Is it possible to allow this process to occur naturally?” he asked.

“Technically, yes, but it could take weeks for the process to complete and it will be painful. It is my professional opinion the D&C is the best option.”

Charlie looked at his wife. “Let us have a day to process this and discuss it, and we’ll make the appointment.” He hugged Fran’s shoulders and kissed her cheek. “I’m sure one more day won’t hurt, right?”

“That’s fine. Again, I’m sorry. If you need anything before the procedure, please don’t hesitate to call the office.”

“Thank you, Dr. Engle,” Fran said.

On the way home, Fran was quiet. She stared out the window of the pickup as Charlie drove them back to the farmhouse from downtown. “How do I tell Mama, Charlie?” she finally broke the silence.

“We’ll tell her together, love. You don’t have to walk this path alone, Frannie. You have me and your mama to love on you. We will make it through this together.” 

“I don’t believe this. But I guess it all makes sense. I never got nauseated, never once threw up. All the symptoms I had gradually faded, but I never really noticed it. I thought it was normal.” She heaved a deep breath. “What do we do now?” 

“Well, we talk about whether you want to wait for your body to pass the baby on its own, or we follow Dr. Engle’s advice and have the procedure done. It’s really up to you, honey.” 

“No, I mean, how do we go on? I didn’t know about it for more than three weeks, and for two of those weeks it was already gone.” Her voice quivered in sorrow. “I wanted this so much.” 

“I know, love. We just take one day at a time from here forward. And when the time is right, we try again, Frannie. And we don’t give up until we have a wiggly, pink babe placed into our arms.” He pulled into the driveway and parked the truck, looked at her and touched her face tenderly. “I still love you. We are going to survive this.” 

“I love you, Charlie.”

Penny was sitting in her rocking chair by the fire when Charlie’s key opened the front door. And as soon as she saw him with Fran, she knew something had happened. Fran stepped through the door as Charlie held it for her, and tears filled her eyes. 

“What’s wrong, child?” Penny asked as she held her arms open.

“I lost the baby, Mama,” she cried and allowed Penny to embrace her. “It had no heartbeat.” 

Penny wept. “Oh Fran, I’m so sorry. I know how excited you were.” She hugged her daughter close and let her cry. 

“I’m going to take care of her, Penny. She hasn’t started to pass the baby yet. I’d like her to do it naturally, but the doctor wants to do a D&C.”

“Well, you know natural is almost always better. But she will have considerable pain if you let it happen naturally. A procedure will be over quickly.” Penny hugged Fran close once more and released her grasp. “It just depends on Fran.”

“I don’t know, Mama. I can’t remember ever being this sad. I want to sleep right now.” She walked to the staircase but Charlie picked her up and carried her up the steps and into their bedroom. 

He set her on the bed and sat beside her. “I am here for you, my love. Whatever you need, I’ll get it for you. Just say the word and it’s yours, Frannie.” 

“Just hold me, Charlie. I feel so lost.” She laid down and began to cry and Charlie laid down beside her. He embraced her and she cried in his arms. And they stayed that way until they both fell asleep.

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Up Next: Chapter Five, Generation One


Pose Credits: 

Poses By Bee

Moondance by Lenina90 at Sims Fans

Custom Content

Hospital for Storytelling  by Jamee at Jamee’s Sims 3 
(Custom content used within the hospital lot documented at Jamee’s Sims 3.)
Lace Table Cloth by LilyOfTheValley at The Sims Resource
Pregnancy Test Accessory by ILTDS (Comes with Pose Pack)
Nouk’s Long Wavy Hair (Fran’s Hair) by Anubis360 at ModTheSims

Custom content and poses are not my property and have been used in compliance with the TOUs. 

G1 Chapter Three – Life On The Farm

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 outside in the small muddy pasture, lumbered to Penny hoping for a treat. 

“Not today, Missy,” she said and patted her nose. The cow licked her hand, 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. 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 those hens would be sent for processing. This 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 cold and Fran squealed and danced around in the chilly spray. Penny looked out the window, saw the display and laughed.

The laundry was started and Fran was dressed in warm, dry clothing when her phone rang, Charlie’s number on the display. 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 belly 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 two hours ahead of Fran’s time. 

“I’m not worried yet. You sound tired. Are they 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 constantly worried about Charlie’s well-being, but he was far away from the quarantined 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 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 to be patched. 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 the display. “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 quarantined area keeps getting larger. Half the county is now under, and we’re no closer to finding a treatment for this plague. I’ve been injected with 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 tried to put off telling her, but he couldn’t get around it. “I’ve been 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 we have a garden. Your pay has been sparse since you’ve been gone. We’ve had to barter 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. The house needs a few things fixed, but I have stuff 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 deployed.” 

“We aren’t. But I’d be lying if I said money wasn’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 he 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 it was 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 it was determined they were the cause of the plague. They captured one alive, contained it safely and destroyed the other five whelps. 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 really 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 they 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 closely knit, 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 they 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 me being deployed anywhere.” He lowered his voice. “The water is really cold 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?” he 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 fairytales 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 whelp, 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 outside in the yard and listened to the crickets as they chirruped on that cool summer evening. And it occurred to her 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 leave 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. 

“Hello?” 

“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 whelps. 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 whelps that were found, only six were black. There were a couple of red ones, which were destroyed, mostly green and purple, but those were destroyed, too.”

“Four colors? That’s odd,” Fran said. “So which ones carry the plague?” 

“The black whelps carry the plague. The red ones are rumored to 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 are found are just destroyed on sight. That’s what we’ve been doing 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 actually 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 produce 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. Nearly all of the surviving villagers were inoculated 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 the cows had been tended, she collected eggs from the coop. The chicks that had hatched earlier that year were established and most of them 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 hive 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 hive, 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. Not all of it would be placed for sale. Some of the more tender fruits were kissed with frost and blemished. Those would be used for jam 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. This is it for the 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 up 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.” 

At the end of the day, the women were both 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 had much to do before going to bed that night. Any remaining vegetables on the plants needed to be harvested 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 produced 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 big 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, my friend Dory has invited me to go with her and her daughter for tea and shopping 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 extremely 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.

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Up Next: Chapter Four, Generation One



Custom Content:

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. 

G1 Chapter Two – Problems Arise

The Monday morning after Snowflake Day, Charlie woke early for work. He had been home with Fran and took care of her all weekend long, and at bedtime the evening before she was feeling better. But he insisted that she stay indoors and not do chores until her fever was broken for good. On this morning, he didn’t have time to feed the animals outside before work. Unless Penny cared for them, the cows and chickens would wait until the afternoon. Before he left for work, Charlie lit a fire in the hearth to warm the downstairs rooms. The snow still fell and it was bitterly cold. 

When Fran got up, she put another log on the fire and poked it a bit, then made breakfast for Penny and herself. It wasn’t long after the pancakes were done that she heard the smoke detector scream in the living room. With her heart in her throat, she ran to see a small throw rug on fire near the fireplace. Penny, who had been outside getting the newspaper, quickly ran inside and grabbed the fire extinguisher. She made quick work of the fire and doused the flames before they could do much damage.

“Wow, Mama!” Fran exclaimed, visibly shaken. “You are really good with a fire extinguisher.”

“I learned from the best, child,” answered Penny, her thoughts went to Jake. He had taught her how to use the extinguisher without panic and the lessons paid off that day. “Your daddy was the best fireman I knew…” Her voice trailed off as she choked back tears.

“I know, Mama,” said Fran softly and held back her own tears. Quickly, Fran cleaned up the ash and mess from the fire and placed a throw rug over the burned mark on the floor. “I need to go finish breakfast in the kitchen. Are you okay in here?”

“Yes, honey,” Penny replied. “I’ll be in my rocking chair.” Penny loved the rocker Fran had bought for her last birthday, but until that day it had been outside. When she noticed Penny’s horrible cough, Fran brought the chair in. She turned to leave for the kitchen when the smoke alarm sounded yet again! Penny hopped up as quickly as she could to put the flames out when the fire licked at her nightclothes and ignited.

“Mama! Go jump in the shower!” Fran screamed at her mother, who was now in full panic mode. Obediently, she ran to the bathroom on the bottom floor and got into a cold shower. Before long, the flames were out and Penny was safe, no worse for the wear. But she was lucky this time. The fire was too close for comfort. Fran had already tamped the fire down by the time Penny reappeared.

“Well, that won’t happen a third time, I can tell you that, child,” Penny stated. “I can’t push my luck anymore. We’ll just have to be a little chilly is all.”

Fran nodded as she hugged her mother. “I’m so happy you didn’t argue with me, Mama. You could have been hurt, maybe worse,” Fran shuddered. Just as quickly as she cleaned up the last mess, she had this one swept up and mopped as though nothing had happened. Except for the odor of burnt wood and fabric, the evidence of fire was gone.

Charlie returned home from work a few hours after the fire, the scent still hung heavy in the air. “What have you two been up to?”

“Oh,” Fran said, “We’ve had some excitement here. The fireplace spit an ember onto the floor, and it went up quick,” she explained. “Mama got the fire extinguisher and put that one out quickly.” She looked at Penny and swallowed hard. “Then another ember jumped from the hearth onto the throw rug I put over the first burn marks, and Mama’s nightclothes caught fire. She had to get into the shower to douse the flames. It was frightening!”

Charlie noticed she trembled as she told the story and his face turned ghost white. “Oh, Frannie, I’m so sorry. I’m the one who started that fire this morning. What if it would have happened before you got out of bed?” 

Fran hugged him and kissed his cheek. “We’re okay, love. We were lucky this time, though. 

“I’m so happy you’re safe,” he said, shaking his head. “I need to figure out why that thing is spitting out embers like that. I might need to upgrade the grate on the front.” 

“Will that help?” Fran asked. She knew nothing about that kind of thing, but she knew Charlie was very handy. 

“It should stop embers from coming out of the hearth at all if the grate is smaller. I’ll check into it tomorrow,” he said. He knew he couldn’t risk his family and with the bitter cold outside, they needed the fireplace.

Penny coughed, a chill shook her. “I think I’m catching your flu, Fran. I’m going to go upstairs to rest, child.” 

“I’ll bring supper to you, Mama,” Fran offered, but Penny shook her head. 

“I’m just going to sleep, baby girl. But I’ll have some tea if it isn’t too much trouble.” 

“Of course, Mama. Right away,” Fran replied. She walked to the kitchen and put the kettle on the stove. 

Fran cooked a light supper of macaroni and cheese. Afterward, Charlie cleaned up and they both headed upstairs for some rest and time together. While Penny rested in her bedroom she remembered the fire, and she missed Jake like she hadn’t in a long time.


The next morning, Fran carried some fresh tea, juice, and medicine upstairs for Penny. She was in her easy chair and stared outside at the snow when Fran greeted her. 

“Good morning, Mama,” she said.

Penny jumped. “You startled me, child,” she said. 

“I’m sorry,” Fran apologized. “I haven’t seen you this deep in thought in a while. Thinking of Daddy again?” 

Penny nodded her head. That girl could still read her like a book. “Since the fire yesterday, I’ve thought of little else. I miss him, Fran.” 

She set the tray on her nightstand and sat on the bed. “I miss him, too.” 

Penny shook her head. “How could he just sacrifice himself like that, Fran? He had a family…” Her voice trailed off.

“That little boy did, too. I’m so proud of him, Mama.” Fran hugged her. “Not just anyone can do what he did. It takes a special soul. The fire. It just seems… alive.”

Penny coughed. “Indeed it does. Thank you for the tea, sweet pea.”

“You’re welcome. How are you feeling today?” 

“I’ve been better, child. Did you make soup last night?” Penny shivered and ached with fever.

“I didn’t but I can today. I need to take care of the animals and garden, but I’ll start the broth before I go outside.” Fran sneezed. 

“Are you sure you should be going outside? You’re still not well either,” Penny objected. 

“I feel guilty for letting Charlie do my chores. He works a full day and then comes home to my chores. It isn’t right.” Fran set the juice, water, and medicine on Penny’s nightstand and took the empty tray. 

“You’ll be no good to either of us if you get worse. I’m sure he doesn’t mind, and it won’t be forever. Let him take care of you, Fran.” Penny took two pills from the medicine bottle and closed it, popped them into her mouth and swallowed nearly the full glass of orange juice. “Thank you for taking care of me.” 

“It’s my pleasure, Mama.  You’ve certainly taken care of me enough.” Fran smiled at her mother. “If you need anything, let me know and I’ll make sure you have it.” She left the room, the tray at her side.

Charlie called Fran on his lunch break. “Hello?” she answered.

“Hey love,” he said. “I’m going to be late tonight. Drills are running long. Is everything okay at home?”

“What time should I plan supper? Mama is still sick so I doubt she will join us. I’m making chicken soup for her. Is that okay?” 

“Honey, anything you make is perfect. I think I’ll be out around six, so you can plan for seven.” 

“Thanks for letting me know, Charlie. I’ll take care of the animals today. The cows can’t wait until then.” 

“Make sure you stay warm, Frannie. I don’t want you to get sicker.” 

“Don’t worry, I will. Charlie?”

“Yes, love?” 

“I love you. Be safe.” 

“Oh, I love you, too. I’ll see you soon.” Charlie blew her kisses and hung up the phone. 

Fran dressed in her warm coat, put her boots on and grabbed the clean bucket from the cabinet. She sliced an apple into quarters, slipped it into her pocket and walked out into the snow. It was almost too deep to open the barn door, and she made a mental note to shovel a path to it. 

Missy lumbered over to Fran and nudged her hand. Fran laughed. “Hi Missy,” she said softly. She walked to Cora first and gave her half of the apple much to Missy’s dismay. The young cow mooed her displeasure and Fran laughed. “Okay okay, Missy,” she chuckled and held the apple out for her to take. How she loved that sweet young heifer. 

She tethered Missy into place and pulled her stool from under the bench and sat. Fran’s warm, soft hands gently milked her, and when she was finished, she took the bucket inside. Milk from the previous day still needed to be churned and cultured and Fran was overwhelmed. So much work piled up when one of them was ill. She sighed heavily and took the second clean bucket back to the barn for Cora.

The chickens were always easier to care for, but the coop needed to be mucked out. Fran simply scattered feed around the cleaner areas of the coop and collected the eggs. In the spring, most of the eggs would be allowed to hatch. For now, farm fresh eggs made a good breakfast and Penny used many of them in her baking. 

The soup had cooked for an hour and the broth smelled good when Fran returned to the kitchen. She turned it off to allow the pot to cool. She would pick the meat from the chicken bones and use it for a different meal. For the soup, she would use the broth, fresh vegetables from the garden and some noodles. Nothing tasted better than chicken noodle soup during an illness. Penny would enjoy it that evening, and so too would they.

When the soup was ready, Fran filled a bowl and brought it upstairs with another cup of tea and a glass of juice for Penny. She knocked softly on the door and opened it. 

“Mama? Are you awake?” she asked.

“Yes, child,” Penny answered. “Come in.” 

Fran walked through the door. “I brought some soup and juice for you, Mama.” She set the tray on her nightstand and sat on the bed next to her mother. “How are you feeling?” 

“I wouldn’t mind if the Reaper came for me, Fran. I feel that awful.” She groaned in pain. “Maybe I should see a doctor.” 

“I’ll call him when I get downstairs, Mama. Maybe he will come out to see you tonight.” She took two more pills from the medicine bottle. “Do these help at all?”

Penny shook her head. “No, they haven’t touched the fever, and I hurt all over.” Another tight cough rattled her, and she groaned. “Please, Fran, call the doctor for me.” 

“I’ll go do it now. Try to sip on the broth, Mama. I’ll be right back.” 

Of all the nights for Charlie to be late, this was not a good one. She picked up the house phone and called Penny’s doctor. She suspected he might suggest bringing Penny to the ER. 

“This is Penny Hutchins’ daughter Fran. She is home in bed with the flu, but she said she needs to see the doctor. Is it possible for him to make a house call tonight?” 

The receptionist tapped some keys on her computer. “I can arrange for him to see her after his office hours if that’s okay? Otherwise, he is booked solid.” 

“That is fine. I would bring her to the hospital, but my husband has the only vehicle at work. I can’t thank you enough.” 

“It’s our pleasure,” the receptionist replied, and they ended the phone call. 

Fran walked hurriedly up the steps to Penny’s room. “The doctor will come after his regular hours, Mama.” She sat on her mother’s bedside and felt her forehead. “I’m going to check your temperature.” 

Penny shook her head. “Don’t bother. I did it an hour ago, and it was 103. It hasn’t moved all day.” 

“Just hang in there, Mama. If you need me, call for me. I’m not far away.” She kissed Penny’s forehead and left her room. 

The doctor arrived at five-thirty that afternoon and rang the doorbell of the small farmhouse. “Come in, Dr. Miller. Mama is upstairs.” Fran led him up the steps to Penny’s bedroom. She was sleeping restlessly when Fran knocked on the door. “Come on in any way,” she motioned to the doctor. 

Penny awakened when she heard footsteps in the room. Fran left him to examine Penny in privacy and waited downstairs for Charlie to come home. 

The doctor descended the steps a half-hour later. “Fran, your mother should really be in the hospital. I’m worried about secondary pneumonia in someone her age. When will your husband be home?” 

She checked her watch. “Any time now. He is later than usual.” 

“Well, when you can bring her, I’d strongly suggest she be admitted right away. Just take her to the ER and tell them she’s been preregistered. You shouldn’t have to wait.” 

Fran nodded, anxious. “Thank you, Dr. Miller. We’ll bring her as soon as we can.” The doctor left and Fran paced the floor as she waited for Charlie’s return from work.

*****

Charlie did not come home until almost seven that evening. He was tired and hungry, and he only wanted to have dinner and go to bed. He hung his coat on the newel post on the stairs and flopped into his recliner. Fran heard him downstairs and ran to meet him.

“Hi love,” he said. “You’re a sight—”

“Charlie, we need to go. Mama needs to go to the hospital,” she interrupted him. “The doctor was here earlier. They are waiting for her.” 

“Why didn’t you call me earlier?” he asked. “I could have come home if I had known you needed me, darling!” Adrenaline took him over and he rushed upstairs to Penny’s bedroom, Fran on his heels.

“Mama, we’re going to take you to the hospital like Dr. Miller wanted,” Fran told her. 

She nodded her head weakly. “Let me feed the chickens first…” she said. “The wolves will eat them.”

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Charlie looked at Fran. “We need to go now. She’s hallucinating.” Gently, he lifted Penny from her bed and carried her down the steps and to the garage. When he got her buckled in, they discovered a problem. With Penny in the passenger seat, there was no room for Fran. The pickup was only a two-seater. “Can you drive the truck, Frannie?” 

Fran relied upon carpools for work before the wedding. They hadn’t owned a car since Jake had passed away, and Fran never learned to drive. “I can’t drive at all, Charlie. You need to take her. I’ll ride in the back.” 

“Darling, no. You’re still sick yourself. I’ll take her and call you.” He got into the pickup and started the engine, opened the garage door and put the truck in gear. 

“Call me, Charlie. I love you. The doctor said to bring her to the ER and say she’s preregistered.” She blew him a kiss and he nodded. 

“I love you, Frannie,” he replied. He pulled out from the driveway and onto the street, headed for the hospital.

A few hours later, he called Fran. “They still don’t have her in a room, love. I guess her doctor didn’t do the paperwork, and she’s still here, but they have her on oxygen and an IV drip. She’s in good hands.” 

Fran had been pacing the floor since he left with Penny, worried sick. “How is she doing?” 

“She is sleeping right now. She insisted that I go home, that she is fine. Should I leave her?” Charlie asked. 

“Come get me and drop me off. I’ll sit with her, and you can rest for work. I need to stay with her.” Fran wrung her hands nervously. Her mother hadn’t been this sick since her father had died, and she was worried. 

“I’m on my way, love.” 

Twenty minutes later, Charlie pulled up outside the front door of the house. Fran was waiting for him, ready to go. She ran to the truck as safely as she could in the snow and got in the passenger side. “How was she when you left, Charlie?” 

“Resting comfortably. I think they were almost ready to move her, so we’ll have to find out if they did. Are you sure you want to stay with her, love?  You’re barely over this yourself.” 

“I’m all she has, Charlie. I have to.” He nodded his head and drove. 

When they returned to the hospital, Penny had been brought to a room, hooked up to monitors, IV fluids and oxygen. The sight of her frightened Fran, and she trembled in Charlie’s arms. “This doesn’t look good,” she wept.

“Oh honey, I think she’s going to be fine. She is right where she needs to be. But Frannie, I am tired and hungry. If you’re sure you want to stay with her overnight, I will leave you here. Call me in the morning when you have some news, okay?” He kissed her tenderly. 

Fran nodded. “I’ll call as soon as I know something. The soup is in the fridge, and the animals are cared for tonight. Get some rest. I love you, Charlie.” 

“I’ll miss you tonight. I love you, too.” Charlie kissed her again and left the hospital. Fran curled up in a chair by Penny’s bedside and kept vigil in her room. 

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The doctor woke Fran the next morning when he came to examine Penny. “Fran, she’s doing well. Her lungs are clear, we’re just trying to control the fever at this point. I’m going to start her on antibiotics just in case we’re dealing with something other than just the flu, for which she tested positive. Do you have any questions for me?”

“When can she go home?” Without Fran at the house, the animals would suffer. 

“Probably tomorrow if the fever reduces. I will check on her after my office hours tonight and make the final decision.”

Fran nodded. “Thank you, doctor.” 

About an hour later, Penny awakened in horror to see her daughter asleep in a chair. She reached to touch Fran’s hand. 

“Have you been here all night, child?”

Fran nodded. “Yes, Mama. I couldn’t leave you here alone.”

“Sweet pea, you have Charlie and the animals to think of, not me. Go home and get some good sleep, Fran.” 

“But Mama,” Fran objected, “I’m all you have.”

“You are Charlie’s wife first, child. You need to be with him.” Penny patted her hand. “I’m going to be okay. I’m worried about you.”

“I’m alright,” Fran assured her. “Besides, Charlie has the truck until after work. I’m stuck until then. How do you feel?” 

“Still rotten, Fran. I hope they figure out what’s going on. I don’t recall ever being this sick.” Penny groaned and rested her head back on her pillow. 

“Just rest, Mama. I’m here for you.” Fran curled up in her chair and watched the snow as it fell outside, thankful they were warm and safe. But she missed Charlie.

Charlie called Fran on his lunch break to check on his family. She answered her cell sleepily.

“Hello?” 

“Hey, my love,” he said. “How’s your mama?” 

“She’s still pretty sick. But she wants me to go back home tonight. She has a point, Charlie. You need me. The animals need me. I should take my place in our home.” She noticed the snow had stopped, though the sky was still overcast and threatened storms.

“I will get you on my way home, then. I missed you last night, honey. And yes, your mama is right. The milk will spoil if nothing is done with it. Missy and Cora still give milk even if no one is home to take care of their bounty.” 

“I’ll let her know then. I can’t wait to see you,” she said softly so she would not wake Penny. “When can I expect you?” 

“I’m scheduled until two, so I will be at the hospital around two-thirty,” he replied. His voice lowered, almost whispered. “We will have the house to ourselves.” 

Fran blushed, as though Penny could hear him. “After my chores are done,” she whispered back. “But only if you help me.” 

Charlie sat up in his chair, not expecting a serious answer to his flirtation. “Done!” he exclaimed.  “I just noticed the time, sweetie. I have to get back to work. I’ll see you soon, love.” 

“I will wait for you,” she said. “I love you, Charlie.” 

“I love you, too,” he answered and ended the call. 

The nurse came in to check Penny shortly after and was pleased to see her fever was broken. She turned to Fran. “Are you comfortable, hon? Have you had anything to eat today?” 

She shook her head. “No, I haven’t eaten since I got here last night. My husband is coming soon to bring me home.” 

“Very well. The doctor will be pleased to see her progress.”

“She still was feeling pretty sick earlier,” Fran said. 

“Well, her progress is mostly on paper right now. Her temp is normal, there is no secondary infection and her lungs are clear. Eventually, she will feel better.” She patted Fran’s hand. “Don’t worry about her. She is where she should be.”

“Thank you,” Fran replied. The nurse left the room.

Penny and Fran were both asleep when Charlie entered the hospital room. He walked to his wife and kissed her cheek, and she opened her eyes. “Hi, love,” he said softly.

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“Charlie!” she exclaimed. She jumped out of her chair and hugged him. “Oh, how I’ve missed you.” 

“I missed you too. How is she doing?” 

“She has been improving, though she doesn’t feel well. This morning, the doctor thought she might be able to come home tomorrow, but he hasn’t been back. Chances are, he won’t before we leave here. He does have office hours after all.” She kissed his cheek.

“That sounds like good news!” He looked at Penny. “She looks better, love. Her color is better.” 

Fran nodded. “I agree. The nurse told me her progress was mostly numbers. Normal temperature, no infection, her lungs are clear.” 

“Bringing her here was the right choice. But now it’s time to go home. Missy, Cora and I need you.” He leaned closer to her and whispered, “I need you most of all.” 

Fran blushed but smiled at him. “Let me wake her. She’s been sleeping all morning.” She reached to touch Penny’s hand and she awakened her gently. “Mama?” 

Penny’s eyes opened and focused on Fran’s face. “Oh, Charlie is here!” She smiled at her son-in-law. “Are you taking my sweet Fran from me I hope? She needs to be home with you, son.” 

Charlie nodded. “I am. And when it’s time for you to go back home, I’ll be here to get you.” 

“Good enough, Charlie,” she said and laid her head back on her pillow. “You two go on, now. This old lady will be okay.”

Fran kissed Penny’s forehead. “I’ll keep in touch with your doctor, Mama. Rest well. I love you.” 

“I love you, child. Get some rest, Fran.” They waved as they left her room.

*****

That evening, when the chores were caught up and they had eaten, they cuddled in bed together. The weather was cold but the snow had stopped. Charlie looked at his wife and smiled at her.

“It’s good to have you home tonight,” he said softly. “I missed you.” 

“It feels good to stretch out and relax,” she sighed. “But I am worried about Mama.” 

“Aww, Frannie, she’s right where she needs to be, love. She has the best care in the county, all snug and warm in her hospital bed where she can recover. She will progress the same whether you were here with me or there with her, you know. When she’s home again, you can spoil her.” He kissed her cheek and caressed it.

“You’re right, Charlie, as usual.” She laid her head on his bare chest and heard his heart beating. His hand ran through her hair and he hugged her close. “Charlie?” 

“Yes, my love?” 

“I think it may be time to try for that baby you promised me for Snowflake Day.” 

“If you say so,” he grinned. 


Two days later, Charlie pulled into the garage with Penny in the passenger seat. She was feeling better and the danger of secondary complications had long passed. He helped her to the front door and into the house where Fran waited for them to arrive. They both shook the snow from their boots and walked into the house. Penny smiled as the familiar smell of home hit her senses. 

“It is so good to be home,” she said and shivered from the cold. “But if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to take a bath and go lie down for a while. I’m better, but I’m not well.” 

“I’ll help you up the steps,” Fran offered, holding her arm to Penny. But she shook her head. 

“I’m sick, but I’m not helpless sweet pea. I’ll be okay on my own.” With that, she started up the steps to the bathroom she shared with Charlie and Fran. 

“I have hot water ready for her,” Fran said. “I’ll take a cup for her when she’s done in the bath.” She looked at Charlie. “How are the roads?” 

“Passable but icy. I’m tired of this snow and cold, and it’s only January. Spring seems a long way off when you’re buried under two feet of snow.” 

Spring meant something different for Fran and Penny. It meant the garden needed to be transplanted outside and seeds would be sown in the greenhouse for the next season. It meant the farmer’s market and selling their wares. It meant income that would be saved for the off-season. It meant a lot of hard work, but Fran loved the springtime. 

“That reminds me, I need to arrange to have the garden tilled as soon as the ground is breakable. Caleb gets busy towards mid-season, and I don’t like to wait.” Fran jotted a memo on the calendar. Caleb Bradford owned a farm just down the street and their families bartered with each other for goods and services. In exchange for tilling their garden, Fran would supply the Bradford family with fresh eggs, cheese, preserves, and a half-dozen chicks for his three children. It was an agreed-upon arrangement that happened every year since Caleb was Fran’s age, and he was now thirty-five years old. 

Charlie’s cell phone rang, and when he looked at the caller ID, it was his superior officer. “Well, this can’t be good,” he said and excused himself. Fran busied herself in the kitchen with Penny’s cup of tea. She was almost finished and ready to bring it upstairs when Charlie reappeared in the kitchen, his face sheet white. His expression frightened Fran.

“You look as though you’ve seen a ghost. What’s wrong, Charlie?” 

“There is some civil unrest in Dragon Valley, and I’m being deployed for nine months.” He stood in shock. “This never happens… it’s peacetime…” his voice trailed off. 

Fran’s eyes filled with tears. “When?” was all she could squeak out.

“I leave in two days.” He walked to the dining room and sat in the chair, his head buried into his hands. “Fran, I’m so sorry.” 

“We’re going to be okay,” she said, tears streamed down her face as she walked to him. 

“This wasn’t supposed to happen. This is a permanent assignment here.” His mind raced with all he needed to do before he left. He wrapped his arms around Fran’s waist and she held him.

“You have to go where you’re needed, and if Dragon Valley needs you, that’s where you go, love.” She understood, even if she hated it. 

“I have so much to do. Will you be okay here alone?” 

Fran chuckled. “It was just Mama and me for years, baby. I will miss you fiercely, though.” He looked up at her as she stroked his hair. “This is what I get for loving a military guy.” 

“Honey, I’m so sorry. I need to start making arrangements to go.” He kissed her as he walked for the door and grabbed his coat on the way by. “I’ll see you tonight.” 

Fran carried the tray of tea and honey upstairs to Penny and knocked softly on her door. “Mama?” she called softly.

“Come in, child. I’m decent.” 

As soon as Penny saw her, she knew something was terribly wrong. And as Fran set the tray on the nightstand, she started to cry. “Mama, Charlie is…” her voice trailed off as she sobbed. 

“What? What’s the matter, sweet pea?” 

“He’s being deployed to Dragon Valley. Something about civil unrest. He’ll be gone for nine months, Mama! How will I live without him that long? We’re newlyweds!” 

“When does he leave, child?” Penny’s eyes held concern. Now that Fran had a husband, Penny knew she couldn’t be without him. 

“Two days. What am I going to do?” Fran sobbed into her hands. 

Penny sat her up and hugged her. “I’ll tell you what you’re going to do, child. You’re going to support him, stay busy, and keep yourself for him until he comes home. There will be plenty to keep both of us occupied until then.” 

“I will miss him so much,” she cried. “I don’t know how I’ll manage alone.” 

“The same way you’ve managed before the wedding, Fran. Hold yourself together. Spend time with him before he goes, and make sure you give him what he needs to hold him until you see each other again.” 

“Mama!” Fran blushed. 

“Come on, child. You two are married and very much in love. I know what you do in that bedroom when the door is closed.” She chuckled at Fran’s extreme discomfort and humiliation, reached for her hand and patted it. “It’s okay, too, just so you know. That is what married couples do.” 

“But Mama!” Fran wanted to crawl under the bed and not come out. 

“In fact, I’ll go stay with Dory for a couple of days. She’ll be happy to see me. You two need some private time.” Penny was adamant. “Thank you for the tea. I’ll let you know if I need you.” Penny shooed her from the room and closed the door. Fran heard the tones of a phone being dialed and a muted conversation in the room, and she walked toward their bedroom. 

A couple of hours later, Dory Patterson appeared at the front door, a hug for her best friend and a hearty chuckle. “Frannie, you look fantastic since your wedding! How’s married life treating you?” 

Fran blushed. “We’re doing great, Miss Dory,” she replied. “I guess Mama told—”

Dory smiled at her. “Yes, your mama mentioned Charlie is being deployed. Don’t you worry, Fran. We will all keep you busy while he’s gone.” Penny’s heavy footsteps descended the stairs. 

“Mama, are you sure about this? You’ve just come home from the hospital this morning.” 

Dory moved in and spoke. “Don’t you worry about her, sweet Frannie. My daughter is a nurse, and we will both make sure your mama is cared for. You worry about that man of yours.” Fran really wanted to crawl under a rug and die. Did the whole neighborhood know their bedroom habits? she wondered.

“Thanks,” she squeaked out. “Mama, call me if you need anything.” 

“I’ll be okay, Fran. I’ll see you before Charlie leaves.” Penny kissed her forehead, took her overnight case and together the two ladies left the Hutchins home, leaving Fran stunned and embarrassed but she suddenly wanted Charlie to come home. 


Charlie’s alarm sounded at three o’clock, the morning he had dreaded since the phone call two days prior. Quietly, he tiptoed into the bathroom and started the shower. It wasn’t like him to get emotional but he was not looking forward to later and anticipated tears on both sides. His shower was quick but efficient, and he stepped out to dry. The morning air was chilly, so he dried off quickly and walked into the bedroom.

Fran watched him silently as he dressed. Since Penny had left that afternoon, neither of them had really left the master suite except to eat. And now, even with all of the love they could squeeze into two days, it wasn’t enough. Her heart broke as she watched him lace his boots, and a sniffle broke the silence.

“You’re awake?” he asked. “You don’t have to be up until sunrise, love.” He walked to the bed where she laid and sat on the edge. 

“I know,” she said softly. “I was hoping you wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye.” 

“Oh honey, of course I wouldn’t.” He reached for her hand and held it. “My carpool doesn’t come until five, but I was going to let you sleep for another hour.”

“I’m going to miss you,” she sniffled again. “My life is so different than it was just months ago. Now I know what I’m doing without, and I don’t like it.”

“I know it’s not ideal, honey, but I have to obey this order. It’s only nine months, and I’ll be home in your arms again.” He laid down beside her for a moment and held her. He felt her body shake with sobs. It was obvious the departure would be more difficult than he could have foreseen, and it grieved him. 

“I know you have to go but I don’t want you to,” she cried. “But I’ll wait for you and count the weeks until you’re home again.” 

“That’s my girl,” he said and kissed her. “Come have breakfast with me downstairs, love. Let’s eat together one last time.” She sniffled and put her nightgown and robe on and followed him down the steps.

They warmed leftover pancakes from the previous morning and sat at the dining room table but didn’t say much. The house was eerily quiet, all that could be heard was the clock that hung on the wall near his desk. Finally, Fran couldn’t handle the silence any longer. 

“Will you have your cell with you, love?” 

“Only during break times, baby. We will have sixteen-hour shifts and eight hours’ rest time per day. But I will call you as soon as I can every day.” 

“I don’t care if it’s in the middle of the night, I want to hear your voice, Charlie.” She stood and hugged him close to her. “You hear me? Even if it’s three or four in the morning, call me.” She held his face between her hands and kissed him. “I love you.” 

“I love you, Frannie. You have my word. I will call you when we get in tonight the first chance I have.” 

“You’d better, Captain Farmer,” she cried. A horn sounded outside the house and Fran broke into sobs.

“Oh honey, you’re okay,” he wiped the tears from her eyes and kissed her. “Please smile, Frannie. I want my last memory of you to be happy, love.” 

Fran pasted her worst fake smile and tried to laugh. “I love you, Charlie. Come home safely to me.”

“I love you, my sweet Frannie. I’ll call you soon.” He grabbed his hat from the side table in the living room where he had set it, took his duffle bag and opened the door. She followed him onto the porch and watched him walk into the snow as it fell from the sky. Charlie blew kisses before he got into the car, and waved as they drove away. 

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Up Next: Chapter Three, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee:
Don’t Die Daddy
Meeting At The Bar
Sleeping In A Chair
I’m Dizzy

Blams:
Young Romance

Custom Content:

Hospital Set by Hekate999 at ModTheSims
Garden Rose Living Chair by Severinka at TSR
Nouk’s Long Wavy Hair (Fran’s Hair) by Anubis360 at ModTheSims

Custom content and poses are not my intellectual property and are used in compliance with individual TOUs.