Four years later
The ground had begun to thaw, and springtime planning for the farm was well underway. Charlie had just finished a bigger coop for the chickens, and Missy’s calf, Moo, settled into her place on the farm. With Caleb scheduled to till the garden within the week, Fran had a bunch of seedlings and mature plants to move to the garden plot.
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 endlessly 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 chilly spring morning. Fran approached both cows with a half apple in her pocket for each of them. Moo lowed 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 finished just as 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 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 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.
“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 forward 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 don’t know why my daughter called 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, and 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 suffered because of it. Nevertheless, the three of them walked into the hospital together.
Once she 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.”
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.
“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.”
“I don’t feel well, Charlie. I am a nervous wreck.” 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 device worked slowly to access the needed data, 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,” Fran replied. “I just need to get up and stretch a moment.” She 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 were a few, and by a few, I mean a small percentage, viable sperm that could produce a healthy baby. The bad news is that it won’t likely happen on its own. 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 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 §25,000 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 it.”
“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 incredibly 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. Charlie was up, but he was not inside the house; when she called him, 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 pickup 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 were 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. I forgive you.”
“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.”
The three of them chatted happily together 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.
“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 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 is.”
“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 turned upside down.
Up Next: Chapter Six, Generation One
Zutara 2 “Broken” by Skylar Arden
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 used in compliance with the TOUs.