G1 Chapter Fifteen, Part Two – The Reunion

Three months later

Fran was awake before the sun rose over the eastern valley in Appaloosa Plains. She stopped in the nursery before she walked downstairs. Destiny was still sleeping.

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Fran blew her a kiss and crept down the steps. Maya was already up and had water on the stove.

“Good morning, Miss Fran!” Maya greeted her. “Are you ready for today?”

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Fran shook her head and snickered. “Where do you find all your energy, Maya? You’re so perky for five in the morning.”

“The bed upstairs is super comfy! The wheelbarrow and boxes are outside in the garden.”

Fran stood there, her mouth agape. “Well, I don’t know what to say except thank you, Maya.”

“You’re more than welcome, Miss Fran. I’ll keep an ear out for Destiny while you’re doing the harvest if it’s okay with you?”

“That would be great. We need to set up by seven. I need to pay rent before the market opens at eight.” Fran poured a cup of coffee and sat at the table in the dining room. “After I get the truck loaded, we need to go.”

“Don’t worry about the little one. I’ll have Destiny fed and dressed before it’s time to go.” Maya poured some boiling water over a rooibos tea bag and set it down to steep. “If you need any help with harvesting, let me know.”

“Thanks, Maya. I should be okay.”

The morning was crisp, but not cold, and the temperature was exhilarating. The day would warm soon, so Fran enjoyed the cool morning air. She didn’t rush with the harvest and filled thirty boxes of vine-ripened produce for the first day at the market.

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Fran packed and arranged the fruits and vegetables as she picked them, so all she needed was to display them. It was six-thirty when she finished, so she walked back into the house through the sunroom door.

Maya had just finished feeding Destiny when Fran came in. “Everything is ready! I packed our lunches on ice, and I have a thermos of coffee ready for you.”

For the second time that morning, Fran stood with her mouth hanging open. “You amaze me, Maya.” She tossed the keys to Maya and picked Destiny up from her high chair. “The playpen is in the truck already. She’ll be fine in the stroller until we get set up.”

Maya nodded in agreement. “Don’t worry, Miss Fran. We’ve got this!” She spun the truck keys on her finger, and the three of them left the house.

Sunny was already in her booth and had set up her bakery counter before Fran and Maya arrived. When she spotted her daughter with Destiny on her hip, she walked to greet them. “Hi sweetheart.” Sunny hugged Maya and gave the baby a peck on the cheek. “All ready for today?”

Maya gave a hearty laugh. “Yes, we are! Fran has a bountiful harvest of beautiful veggies and fruits this morning!” Fran pushed a cart with about one-third of her boxes on it, arranged and ready to display.

“Good morning, Sunny!” Fran greeted her best friend. She gave her a quick hug and started placing the boxes of produce onto her stand. “You’ve baked new treats this year, I see!”

“I made some cobblers last night. I think they will sell very well today. Caleb couldn’t keep his fingers out of the raspberry one, so I let him keep it for his lunch. That man is a sucker for raspberries.”

Fran smiled, but she missed Charlie. She hadn’t thought about him since their last call, and she wondered how he was. “Maya, would you help with the rest?”

“Sure thing, Miss Fran! Mama has Destiny looked after.” Fran nodded her head, and together they walked back to the truck.

The first day of the market was a raging success—of the thirty boxes she brought, twenty of them returned home empty. Destiny kept herself occupied most of the day. Fran and Maya took turns entertaining her when she got fussy. When they climbed back into the truck, they were all tired and hungry.

Maya pulled the truck into the driveway and parked it. Fran opened the car door and stood frozen in her tracks. The entryway of the house hung open on its hinges. She trembled while she dialed for the police to come. Fran prayed whoever broke the windows was not still in the house.

Eight minutes later, two police cars were at the house, and the officer approached Fran. “We came home from the market to this, officer,” Fran said, her voice shaky with fear. “I don’t know if they’re gone.”

The officer motioned for the women to stay near the garage while the police inspected the house. And then Fran realized that the gate was open, and the horses were missing. She panicked and ran toward the barn, their names on the wind as she called for them. But Marne and Sweetie were not there. Fran shrieked and fell to the ground. Her sobs echoed to the front of the lot. Maya ran to her, Destiny still in her car seat.

“Fran, what’s wrong?”

“The horses! Maya, they’re gone!”

Maya ran back toward the house. A police officer stood outside the front door to keep watch while the others secured the property. “Officer! The horses are missing!”

The officer spoke into his radio and turned his attention to Maya. “What did they look like, Miss?”

“Palomino, both of them. Purebred Arabians.” Maya tried to think. “Marne and Sweetie are their names. Please, try to find them. It will devastate Miss Fran if we don’t find Marne.”

Maya jogged back to where Fran sat, still in tears. “What did they say?”

“They took the information, and he radioed it to dispatch.” Maya took a deep breath. “They’re going to find your babies, Miss Fran.” She kneeled next to Fran and held her while she cried. “They have secured the house, and we can get Destiny inside to feed her.”

Fran shook her head. “We aren’t staying here tonight. It’s not safe.”

“I’m going to get Destiny. She needs to be with you.” Maya stood and jogged to the truck, picked Destiny up, and walked back to Fran. She set Destiny into her arms and sat back down next to them. “Everything will be okay, Miss Fran,” Maya tried to assure her. “I’m here. You’re not alone.”

*****

The phone rang at 3:12 that morning, and Fran’s sleepy eyes squinted at the display. The phone call she had waited for all day had arrived. She grabbed the phone and answered it.

“Charlie!”

“Hi love.” Charlie heard her weeping. “Frannie, what’s wrong, honey?”

She sat up in bed and tried to calm herself. “Thieves broke into the house yesterday while Maya and I were at the market—”

“My goodness! Frannie, are you alright?”

She nodded her head as though he could see her. “Yes, but they broke the front door.”

“I don’t care about the house, love. I want to make sure you’re okay. Frannie, go to our closet. There’s a strongbox tucked in behind my uniforms—”

“I’m not home, Charlie. I didn’t feel secure, so Maya, Destiny, and I are at the inn on the river.”

He nodded in acknowledgment. “Remember what I’m telling you, okay? Frannie, on the left side of our closet, behind my uniforms is a strongbox. The combination is our wedding day, minus one day. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Charlie, I understand. What is in the safe?”

“My pistol is in there. Pa gave it to me before he died, and I put it there for safekeeping. Frannie, I want you to keep it by the bed while I am gone.”

“Charlie, I’ve never handled a gun before, never mind shot one! I won’t keep that thing anywhere near me!”

“Honey, please. If you need some help with it, Caleb knows how to shoot it. Ask him. I don’t want you to be home with our baby girl without something to protect yourself.”

“But Charlie—”

“Frannie, please, baby. I can’t help you from here. You’re going to need to take care of yourself.” He worried about her and no longer felt like their home was secure.

“You know, this isn’t how I wanted our conversation to go.” She tried to change the subject. “How are you?

“I’m okay. I’m worried about you.” He paced in his tent. “Promise me, Frannie, that you’ll learn how to shoot it. Please.”

Fran sighed. “Okay, I’ll learn.” She sniffled and saw the light on in Maya’s adjoining room. A soft knock sounded at the door between them.

“Miss Fran? Is everything okay?”

Fran covered the mouthpiece of her cell. “Yes, it’s Charlie on the phone.”

Maya’s face lit up. “Please tell him we’re praying for them! I’ll check the baby while I’m up.”

“Maya says hi, and that we’re praying for you, love. Despite my best efforts, I woke her anyway.”

“Please tell Maya, and the Bradfords, thank you. Darling, I need to go. Remember your promise. I love you.”

“I’ll remember my promise, Charlie. I miss you and love you. Be safe. We’ll talk soon.”

“Yes, we will, honey. I miss you. Give our baby girl kisses for me. I love you, Frannie.”

Maya walked back from Destiny’s crib and sat on the chair next to Fran’s bed. “What did you promise Charlie, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“There’s a gun in the strongbox at home. He wants me to learn to shoot it.” Fran shook her head. “I’ve never handled a gun before.”

Maya grinned. “I can teach you! Daddy taught me to shoot when I was a little girl. I’m good at hitting what I aim for, too!”

Fran smiled. Maya’s help and companionship were so valuable she wasn’t sure how she would ever repay the Bradfords. “That would be fantastic.” 

*****

A few hours later, Fran’s cell phone rang. The caller ID displayed an unknown number, but she answered it anyway.

“Hello?”

“Mrs. Farmer,” lead detective Benjamin Williams greeted her. “We have one of your horses, though we aren’t certain which one we have in our possession. I am assuming it is yours. They are palomino, correct?” 

Fran’s heart skipped a beat. “Is she okay? Is she safe?” 

“She doesn’t look injured at all. Would you be able to identify her this morning so we can release her to your custody?” 

Fran nodded. “Yes, I‘ll be there soon. I need to get the trailer hitched to the truck. Is that okay?” 

Detective Williams smiled. “That’s fine, Mrs. Farmer. We will see you.” 

Fran hung up the phone and squealed. “Maya!” she said, “They found one of my horses! I need to go to identify her. Would you mind watching Destiny while I run this errand?” 

Maya smiled. “This is wonderful news! I’ll watch this little sweet pea!” She tickled Destiny’s belly and got a giggle from her. “Be careful, Miss Fran. I’ll be here if you need me.” 

“Thank you, Maya.” Fran took her purse, kissed Destiny’s cheek, and waved as she left the inn. 

Minutes later, she had the trailer hitched to Charlie’s truck, and she pulled away from the house. Ten minutes later, she walked into the sheriff’s office, hopeful that they found Marne and that she was unharmed. 

No one was there when she arrived. She pressed the button on the bell that sat on the desk. A receptionist with a name tag that read “Jan” appeared, saw Fran, and smiled. 

“You must be Mrs. Farmer,” Jan said, and set a cup of coffee down on her desk. “Detective Williams is almost ready for you.” 

“Thank you,” Fran replied and sat in a chair in the waiting area. 

“You’re very welcome,” Jan said. “Your horse is beautiful. I’ve never seen a palomino in the county before.” 

Fran beamed with pride. “They are my babies, both Sweetie and Marne. It would devastate me if something happened to either of them.” 

“Well, our detectives are searching for the missing horse. When we find her, we’ll let you know, Mrs. Farmer.” 

A few minutes later, Detective Williams stepped out from an office whose door opened to the lobby where Fran waited. He approached her and shook her hand. “Mrs. Farmer, please come back to my office.” She followed him back and sat at his desk, and he walked to the other side to sit. “The horse is out in our yard under a veterinarian’s care. He’s just checking to make sure she hasn’t suffered an injury from yesterday’s burglary. These are the photos we took of her upon intake.” He took three photographs from a folder and laid them in front of Fran—she picked them up to look at them.

“This is my younger mare, Sweetie.” While it thrilled Fran to have her back, in her heart, she wished that it was Marne in the yard instead. “See? She has stockings on her front legs, but not the back. Marne has them on all four legs.” She laid the photos on the desk. The detective placed them back into the folder. “Where did you find Sweetie?”

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“We found her near the equestrian center which, if I remember, is near your home? She was grazing on some pasturelands nearby when a gentleman named Farnam called us.” 

Fran nodded her head. “Oliver owns the stud that sired Sweetie. He would have known she was mine.” 

“She should be ready to go soon. Have they fixed your fence, Mrs. Farmer?”

“No, but I will lock the barn when I stable her. My best friend’s husband will repair the lock on the front door and gate at some point today. Don’t worry. Sweetie will be safe,” Fran assured him. “I love these horses like they are my children.”

Detective Williams nodded his head. “We feel the same about our K9 units here, Mrs. Farmer. I understand.” He made a quick phone call to the yard, and when he hung up, a smile crossed his face. “Mrs. Farmer, your horse is ready to go home. He gave her a clean bill of health.” 

Fran stood and wiped a tear from her cheek. “Thank you so much, detective, for everything. Please call me if you get a word on Marne. She is a part of our family.”

“You bet,” the detective replied and handed her his business card. “If you need anything, please call.” They shook hands, and Fran walked from the office.

When she got to her truck, the stable hand had Sweetie ready. “This is a beautiful horse, Miss. You’re very fortunate to have her.” He handed the lead to Fran.

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She blushed. “Thank you.” In moments, she had Sweetie secured in the trailer and was ready to go. Back at the farm, she led the young mare to the barn. “You’ve had enough fun for one day, don’t you think, baby girl?” She ran her hands over Sweetie’s back and rubbed her neck. “Be good, and we’ll be home soon.” Fran left the barn and secured the lock behind her.


A week had passed since the burglary. Fran had still not heard anything about Marne’s whereabouts. She and Maya made fliers to place around town with her photo and a contact number. But every night, they came up empty. 

Destiny awakened at midnight, screaming. Fran ran to the nursery to hold her.

“Shh, baby girl, you’re okay. Mama’s got you,” she whispered into Destiny’s ear and paced the floor with her in the nursery. The screams woke Maya, and she appeared in the bathroom’s door, which connected both rooms. 

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“Is she okay, Miss Fran?” Maya yawned.

“She’ll be okay. I’m just going to rock her to sleep. You can go back to bed.” Fran set her cell phone on the table by the rocking chair. Since the burglary, she never went two steps without it. 

“If you’re certain. Wake me if you need me, Miss Fran.” She nodded and waved to Maya before she closed the bathroom door.

Two hours later, after Fran had gotten the baby back to sleep, the phone rang with Charlie’s number on the display. She reached for the phone and answered it.

“Hi, Charlie.”

“Hi, darling. Is there any word on Marne yet?”

Fran blinked back tears and sighed into the phone. “Not a word. I’m losing hope.”

“Aww, sweetie, never lose hope. Someone will spot her and make sure she comes home to you.” How he wished he was there with her. He’d find the horse himself if it were his last act on this earth. “How is Destiny?”

“She’s good, she talks about Daddy all the time, and I show her your picture. She recognizes your face. I promised you she wouldn’t forget you.”

“That’s good, darling. Your voice is so sweet, I needed to hear it. We are meeting about a mission soon, so I will call you tonight.” He took a breath and sighed. “We can always use your prayers, honey.”

“And you will have them in abundance, my love,” she replied. “I will talk to you tonight. I love you, Charlie, and I miss you. Stay safe.”

“Oh honey, I miss you so much I ache. I love you. Tell Destiny I love her, too.”

“I will,” Fran said before they said goodbye. 

She wanted to go back to sleep, but the clock showed 5:00 AM. Fran sighed walked downstairs to harvest the garden. To her great surprise, Maya was not in the kitchen, so Fran started the coffeepot and pulled her boots onto her feet. She harvested another thirty boxes of produce, and when she finished loading it into the truck, she walked back to the house to shower. 

Maya was awake and feeding the baby when Fran walked back in, but she wasn’t as perky. “Good morning, Maya,” Fran greeted her. “Are you feeling okay this morning?” 

Maya groaned. “No. I couldn’t sleep even before Destiny’s screaming. If you can manage the market alone today, I’ll stay home with her.”

Fran nodded her head. “Please make sure you have the pistol at your side. Protect yourself and my baby.” 

Maya smiled. “Absolutely! Besides, they got whatever they wanted and moved on. I doubt they’ll be back.”

“You’re right,” Fran nodded. “If you need anything, please call me. I will come home right after the market closes.”

Fran got into the pickup and drove the short distance to the farmer’s market. She unloaded several boxes before her cellphone rang, an unfamiliar number on the Caller ID. 

“Hello?” she answered.

“Mrs. Farmer, this is Detective Williams from the sheriff’s department. We believe we have your Arabian mare in our custody. Can you come identify her?” 

Fran squealed with excitement. “Yes! Oh my goodness, I hope you do! I just arrived at the farmer’s market, but I will be there.”

“Take your time, Mrs. Farmer. She is in excellent hands here.” 

Fran jogged to her market stall and found Sunny there and ready to go. “Sunny!” she exclaimed. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Sunny looked beyond Fran, expecting to see her daughter. “Where is Maya this morning?” 

“She is home with Destiny. She didn’t feel well this morning. Would you watch my stall for about half an hour, Sunny? The sheriff’s department believes they have Marne, and I want to get her.”

“I will!” Sunny said. “Go! Get your baby, and I’ll watch your stand.” Sunny embraced Fran. “You must be so excited!”

Fran nodded. “Oh, I am! I’ve never lost her before, not for this long.” She pulled the shield down that closed her stall and turned back to Sunny. “Thanks again. I won’t be long!”

She jogged to the truck and hopped in—the key was in the ignition. She prayed the horse the detective found was Marne. Fran pulled away from the market with a hopeful smile.

Forty-five minutes later, Fran walked into the sheriff’s office. Jan welcomed her. “Hi, Mrs. Farmer. I will let Detective Williams know you’re here.” 

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Fran nodded. “Thank you.” 

It wasn’t long before the detective appeared at the door of his office. “Mrs. Farmer,” he greeted her with a smile. “Please come in.”

She played with her keyring as she sat down. “Can I get you some water or coffee, Mrs. Farmer? You arrived faster than I expected, and I am waiting for the photos in my email. We have a palomino mare that matches the description you gave us. We are confident we have a match.” 

Fran nodded. “I wouldn’t mind some water if it’s no trouble.” 

“It’s no trouble at all.” 

Five minutes later, the email the detective was waiting for arrived, and he opened it, printed the photo attachments, and handed them to Fran. “Here they are, Mrs. Farmer.”

She looked at the photos, and her face lit up. “That’s my Marne!” she squealed, but her happiness was short-lived. “What injured her? There is a gash on her left shoulder…” Fran wiped tears away. “There is so much blood.” 

He tapped on the keyboard and opened the veterinary report. “It says they found the mare in a field just outside of the county, about ten miles away. She tangled herself in some barbed wire and brush, but once they cleaned her up, the injury was better than they thought.” He skimmed the rest of the report. “Most of her injury is surface scratches. She has two deeper wounds which they stitched, and the veterinarian gave her antibiotics. She is malnourished, so he recommends good quality feed while she recovers, and follow up with your vet when you can. He expects a full recovery.” 

Fran sighed with relief. “When can I bring her home?” 

“She is ready when you are, Mrs. Farmer. Take custody of her now.” The detective stood and shook her hand. “If there is anything else we can do, please call me.”

She returned his gesture and thanked him. Fran ran to the trailer where the stable hand waited for her. When she saw Marne, she cried, so relieved to see her. 

“She is a lucky girl,” the stable hand said. “Horses can get maimed in barbed wire, but she’s going to be just fine, aren’t you girl?” He patted Marne’s nose, and she nickered at him.

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“Thank you so much for taking care of her.” Fran hugged her neck. “You don’t understand what she means to me, how much I’ve missed her.” She shook the man’s hand, led Marne into the trailer, and secured her. “Thanks again.” 

“My pleasure, Mrs. Farmer,” he replied. “Take good care of her. She’s a treasure.” Fran nodded and wiped tears from her eyes as she drove away.

Ten minutes later, she backed the trailer into the yard and hopped out of the truck. Fran led her out and through the gate where she reunited Marne and Sweetie. The two horses nickered at one another and nuzzled together. Fran broke down as she inspected the scratches and stitches Marne had on her body. But the mare was home, and her horses were together once again. It relieved Fran that the ordeal was over.

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Up Next: Chapter Fifteen, Part Three, Generation One 


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G1 Chapter Fifteen, Part One – Charlie’s Birthday Surprise

The two women giggled together as Sunny put the last bit of frosting on Charlie’s birthday cake. “You did an outstanding job, Sunny,” Fran complimented her friend. 

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Sunny blushed. “It’s your mama’s recipe,” she replied. “It should be delicious.” 

Fran shook her head. “Your decorations made it beautiful. This will surprise Charlie. Thank you for all your help.” She looked at her watch. “Shoot! He will be home soon. He expects me to be home, too.” 

“Maya, bring Destiny to Fran, please?” Sunny called her youngest daughter. 

“Sure thing, Mama,” Maya called from the living room. Moments later, the youngest Bradford appeared with Destiny on her hip. “She’s been a good girl today, Miss Fran.” 

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“Thank you for watching her, Maya,” Fran said. “Come on, sweet pea. We’re late for Daddy.” She held her arms to Destiny, and the toddler went to her mother. “Thanks again, Sunny. We’ll see you tomorrow!”

Fran plopped Destiny into her stroller and hurried back toward the house. As she approached the farm, Marne and Sweetie were in the pasture playing together. Fran noticed Charlie was not home. She pushed the stroller into the garage, plucked her daughter from it, and walked into the house. Fran had just gotten Destiny settled into her swing to play when Charlie’s truck pulled into the driveway. I just made it! Fran thought to herself. 

He opened the front door to a welcome of squeals, giggles, and babbling. Charlie walked to the swing, lifted Destiny from it, and sat in his recliner. He snuggled the child close to him and sat with her. It was a long day, and he needed their daughter close to him. Fran heard him enter the house and walked from the kitchen. 

“Hi, love,” she greeted him. “How was your day?” 

Charlie took a breath and sighed. “Frustrating. I just want to hold this little girl and love her.” 

She recognized the look on his face, one she had seen twice before, and it alarmed her. “What’s wrong?” 

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Charlie shook his head. “I don’t want to entertain the rumors that swirl around the base, Frannie.” He buried his face into Destiny’s hair and breathed in. “It’s only rumored…” His mind wandered back to the whispered words that frightened him to his core. 

Fran moved closer to him. “You’re scaring me.” 

“I’m eligible for retirement next year. It can’t happen again.” A tear ran down his cheek and into the baby’s hair. 

“What, Charlie? What can’t happen again?” And when she peered into his eyes, she saw the anguish. “Oh, no…” 

He nodded his head and sniffled. “I don’t want to think about leaving you here alone with our baby. I can’t be away from you.”

“When?” she asked. 

“If we go, our unit deploys in a few days. If we don’t, we are on standby. I should have retired when I had the chance, Frannie. We wouldn’t be facing this now.” Charlie took a deep breath and exhaled. “I can’t leave you, not now.” 

Fran took his hand and squeezed it hard. “Don’t do this to yourself, Charlie. We decided together that you would stay in so we could save for our procedure. We might not have had Destiny had you retired.” 

He rubbed his head with his fingers. “What if I don’t—”

“No!” Fran cried out. “Don’t entertain that thought! I need you, and Destiny needs her daddy.” 

Charlie swallowed hard. He hated to see her frightened, and he knew what he had to say would scare her senseless. “You must understand something, darling. My rank makes me a target—”

“Then, your rank should excuse you from going!” Fran said, her voice raised. “Charlie, you cannot go, do you understand me?! I will NOT send you away from me to die!” Sobs choked her words. “I can’t do this alone… I can’t take any more.” 

Charlie sat the baby on the floor so he could embrace his wife. He held his arms open to her, but she collapsed on the floor in tears. “Honey, please don’t cry,” he begged her. 

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“Things are different now. We have a baby. Charlie, I need you.” Her tearful pleas broke his heart. 

“There isn’t anything I can do about it, love. Don’t you think I’ve tried everything to get out of this?” 

“How long is it this time? Two years? Five years?” Fran spat at him.

“Six months minimum,” he replied and looked at the floor. “In reality, it will be closer to eighteen months.” 

Fran stopped crying for a moment and picked Destiny up off the floor. She cradled the toddler in her arms and brushed the hair out of her face. “She’s two years old. You’d be absent almost half of her life!” 

“I know,” Charlie whispered. “She is too young to remember me.” He stood and straightened his uniform. “I will care for the horses tonight. I need a distraction, and this argument isn’t helping.” 

“Charlie, I’m sorry,” she tried to apologize, but he walked up the stairs to their bedroom and closed the door behind him.

Fran sniffled and tried to calm herself. She and Sunny had planned Charlie’s surprise birthday party for that weekend, and she wasn’t sure if he would be there for it. She had Sunny’s number dialed when his quiet footsteps padded back down the stairs. 

“Charlie?” 

“Frannie, not now. Please.” He stood at the bottom of the steps and squeezed his eyes shut. “I need to feed the horses and muck the stalls.” 

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“But we need to talk,” Fran said. 

He held his hand up and gave a deep sigh. “Not now. I need to think.” Charlie walked through the living room toward the backyard. “I’ll be in soon.”

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Charlie closed the back door—his mind focused on his task. The phone in her hand, Fran redialed Sunny’s number. 

“Hi, Fran!” Sunny said. 

Fran tried not to cry, but her best friend’s greeting on the other end made her voice quiver with emotion. “Sun, we might have a problem.” 

“Why? What’s going on?” Sunny asked.

“Charlie…” Fran put her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone to keep her composure. “It’s possible he will deploy in a few days.” 

Sunny gasped. “Oh, no! Not again.” Charlie and Fran had already been through enough with his previous two deployments. “How are you holding up?”

Fran choked a sob back into her throat and spoke. “Not good, Sunny. We have a daughter now. I can’t do this again!” 

“How much of a possibility? Did he say?” 

Fran shook her head. “No, he didn’t. If he goes, they’ll be leaving in a few days, and if they don’t, they’re on standby until it’s over.” She took a deep breath. “He said his rank makes him a target…” She couldn’t hold back the flood of emotion any longer, and she cried into the phone. “I need my husband, and Destiny needs her daddy. What am I going to do, Sunny?” 

The Bradfords had zero influence on the military base. Sunny was at a loss. She sat in her chair in the living room, her head in her hands. “I don’t know, Fran. Caleb and I are here for you, no matter what. Call if you need anything. You know there isn’t anything I won’t do to help you.” 

“Thank you,” Fran whispered and hung up.

Fran walked to the sunroom and watched Charlie play with Sweetie. The young mare favored him, and their bond was strong. She couldn’t imagine dealing with the farm alone for eighteen long months, and she was sorry she had planted so many seedlings. Charlie turned and spotted Fran watching him, so he walked toward the barn with Sweetie’s halter in his hands. He gave a sharp whistle, and the mare trotted to where he stood. Fran wiped her eyes with her handkerchief and sighed. 

Destiny toddled to Fran and wrapped herself around her mother’s leg. “Mama?” she asked.

Fran scooped Destiny into her arms and covered her face in kisses. The little girl giggled and tried to wiggle from Fran’s grasp. They tumbled to the floor, both of them laughing when Charlie returned from the yard. 

“What’s going on here?” he asked. He smiled for the first time. 

“Destiny needed some kisses, and I lost my balance when she nearly slipped out of my arms. She’s safe, but I think I hurt my back. Help me up, Charlie?” 

He reached for her hands to help her, but when she stood, pain shot through her body. Fran doubled over in agony. “Where does it hurt, darling?” Charlie asked. 

The pain took her breath away. “My bottom,” she cried. “I’m going to throw up.” 

Charlie helped her to the bathroom in time for her to vomit, and he knelt beside her. Destiny toddled in behind them, a confused look on her face. “Mama sick?”

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Fran pulled her hair from her face and retched. “Yes, baby girl,” she answered. “Charlie, please help me to the sofa…” Fran got to her feet, but she could not stand up straight. His steady grasp guided her to the sofa where she plopped down face first. 

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“How are you doing, honey?” Charlie asked. 

“I’ve never had pain like this before,” she whispered. “I think I broke a bone.” 

Charlie pulled his cell phone from his pocket. “I’ll call an ambulance,” he said. “What about Destiny?” 

Fran struggled to catch her breath. “Call Sunny. Maya will watch her.”

Charlie kneeled beside her and kissed her forehead. She was clammy to the touch. “Help is on the way, Frannie.” 

Five minutes later, Maya was at the front door. “Charlie?” she called as she knocked. 

“Come in, Maya. Destiny is here with Frannie. The diaper bag is here. We’re waiting for the ambulance to come.” 

Maya saw Frannie on the sofa, splayed out and resting. “How are you feeling, Miss Fran?” Maya asked her.

“Not as good as I was earlier,” Fran laughed and then grimaced in pain. “Thank you for helping with Destiny.”

“She’s no problem at all,” Maya assured her. “Just worry about feeling better. I’ll sleep on the sofa down here tonight.”

Charlie sighed with relief. “Maya, you’re a lifesaver. Thank you again.”

*****

Fran and Charlie returned home from the hospital early that morning. The odd way Fran had fallen bruised her tailbone, but she was in excruciating pain from it. Under doctor’s orders, she couldn’t lift weight or sit for any length of time. And suddenly, they had a problem. Fran could not care for Destiny, and Charlie still awaited word on his probable deployment. The timing of her injury was terrible.

Maya tucked Destiny into bed, and she was sound asleep when they got home. Maya slept on the sofa in the sitting room. He walked her up the steps to their bedroom, where Fran laid down on her stomach. The pain shot down her legs and up into her back, and she thought she’d vomit again.

“Do you need some ice, love?” Charlie asked her.

Fran breathed a pained sigh. “Yes, please.”

He bent to kiss her cheek. “I’ll be right back. Hang in there, honey.”

Charlie walked down the steps, careful to be quiet. But Maya was awake and in the kitchen when he arrived.

“How’s Miss Fran? I hope everything is okay.”

Charlie shook his head. “She has a bruised tailbone, and she can’t lift or sit for a couple of weeks.” He took the ice bag from the cabinet above the coffeemaker and filled it. “I’m going to see if Lorne will pardon me from my deployment. I can’t leave her here like this. The authorities won’t be pleased to see our daughter neglected because Frannie can’t care for her.” He checked the time on his watch. “I need to shower for work. Do you mind staying just a little longer, Maya? It shouldn’t be very long. I would appreciate your help.”

“Of course! I adore that little girl, and you know I’m here to help whenever you need me.”

Charlie smiled. She was just like her parents. “I’ll keep that in mind, Maya. Thank you.”

An hour later, Charlie had just parked his truck in his reserved spot on the base. He stood and straightened his uniform. A quick check of the lot revealed that Lorne was already there, and he was just the person Charlie needed.

He adjusted the hat on his head and knocked on the office door. “Colonel Charles Farmer,” he announced.

“Come in,” the General called him. Charlie entered the office and stood at attention. “At ease, Farmer.”

“May I?” Charlie asked and pointed toward the chair opposite his commanding officer.

“Of course, Charlie. What can I do for you?” Lorne extended his hand to shake, and Charlie returned the gesture.

“Lorne, I have a problem. Fran fell yesterday and bruised her tailbone. She’s in an incredible amount of pain, and the doctor doesn’t want her to lift or sit.”

Lorne sat back and scratched his chin. “That is a problem, since we’re shipping out in two days.”

Charlie swallowed hard. “I hoped that you would excuse me from duty on this deployment. Lorne, I can’t leave Destiny when Fran can’t care for her. My sisters live out of town. Both of our parents have died. Fran has nobody she can rely on for help. Please cut me some slack.”

Lorne stood and paced behind his desk. “You know I need your tactical expertise for this deployment, Charlie. You’re the only guy with the experience and knowledge to complete this task. I can’t spare you.”

“Lorne, please, we’re talking about my baby girl here. The one we waited for twenty years to have. I can’t leave her with no one to care for her.” Charlie was desperate, one moment away from begging.

“What about friends? Neighbors? Aren’t you and Frannie active at the chapel? There should be someone there who will help you guys?”

“If I had some time, perhaps. But on such short notice? I don’t know, Lorne. Please, you can’t leave us like this.”

Lorne sat back in his chair. “I’m sorry, Charlie, they’ve tied my hands. We are shipping out on Friday. You and Fran need to plan for your obligations. Report to base Friday morning at 0500. Dismissed.”

“Lorne, I will quit if I—”

“Be careful, Charlie. You don’t want to be court-martialed and receive a dishonorable discharge for failure to report. I’ll see you Friday morning.” Lorne stood and walked Charlie to the door, escorted him out, and closed it behind him. 

Charlie walked to his truck, opened the door, sat in the driver’s seat and wept.


Charlie sat on the bed upstairs to pack his duffle bag for an early morning departure. He had already resigned himself to the possibility he would not come home. But his departure would be different. Fran was injured—there would be no marathon love session. It was a forbidden activity while she was hurt. 

He laid his uniform out, shined his shoes, and showered early. When he packed his bag, he lugged it down the steps. No matter the outcome, this would be his last deployment—the last time he would leave his wife and family behind while he served his country. And if he came home alive, he would retire from his twenty-seven-year career in the armed forces at his first opportunity.

“Are you sure you don’t mind doing this, Maya?” Fran stood and held the door for Caleb, who carried Maya’s last box. Maya volunteered to be a live-in nanny and helper for Fran during Charlie’s deployment.

“Don’t be silly, Miss Fran,” Maya replied. “I love you guys, and you’ve helped me. It’s my way of paying it back.” She planted a kiss on Destiny’s cheek, and the baby giggled. “Charlie doesn’t have to worry about you while he is away.” 

Fran snickered. If they owed anyone, it was Caleb and Sunny. “Well, we appreciate you more than you realize,” she said. “All of you.” Charlie’s heavy footsteps descended the stairs, his bag in his hand, and Fran’s eyes welled with tears. “Give us a moment?” she asked Maya, and the young girl complied. Caleb followed his youngest daughter up the stairs to Penny’s old bedroom. 

“Honey, please don’t cry.” Charlie embraced her. “I’ll be home before you know it.” 

“How can you expect me not to cry? All you’ve talked about is not coming home!” She threw her arms around him and sobbed on his shoulder. Her tears were hot and plentiful, and Charlie blinked back his own.

“Please, honey, with all your heart, pray for us all to come home. It’s my only chance to survive.” He clung to her, fearing it would be one of his last times to hold her. When he pulled away from her, he gazed into her green eyes. “Promise me, Frannie. Say you’ll pray for us. I need to hear it.” 

Fran nodded. “Of course, I will pray. I will do everything I can on my end to ensure your safe return.” Charlie wiped tears away from her face, and he kissed her. 

“That’s my girl.” He forced a smile. “When I come home, this is it, love—no more deployments, no more military. I quit. That, I promise.” Charlie hugged her close to him and kissed her forehead. “I’m happy Maya will be here with you while I’m gone. We owe the Bradfords a debt we can never repay.” 

“I wish you weren’t leaving in the morning, Charlie. We were going to have a surprise party for your birthday on Saturday.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “We spent a month planning it. Your sister Jenny and Paul were coming with the twins.” 

“Oh, honey. I’m sorry, I am going to miss it. But I want you to have the party, anyway. Have fun and be with our friends and family. I want that for you.” 

“But you won’t be there. What is a birthday party without the guest of honor?” 

“I will be there in spirit, love. Anywhere you go, I am with you. Remember that, baby.”

“Always,” she whispered.

*****

Charlie’s alarm sounded the next morning, and he turned it off. For a few extra minutes, he stayed warm and cozy in bed with Fran, and he snuggled her close to him. His arms around her woke her, and she knew time was short. 

“Good morning,” she whispered and kissed his fingers. 

“Good morning, my darling.” He buried his face into her hair and took a deep breath. Her hair always smelled like apples, and he would miss it while he was away. 

“How much time do we have?” 

“Just a few more minutes. The carpool is coming at four-thirty to get me.” 

Fran rolled over to face him, wrapped her body around his despite the pain, and kissed him. “I know this won’t hold you until you come home. Please, Charlie, wait for me.” 

“You are my only love, Frannie. I will wait for you, however long it takes.” He kissed her again and pulled away from her. “I have to get up, sweetie. I need to kiss Destiny and tell her goodbye.” 

Fran shook her head. “This isn’t goodbye, Charlie. I refuse to believe it. But I won’t let her forget you. I will talk about you, show her your photos. She will grow, but she will not forget you, I promise.” 

Together, they got up from the bed, and Fran watched as Charlie got dressed. She wept, and he walked to where she stood, and he embraced her. “Sweetie, please don’t cry anymore. I will come home to you. I believe it. Pray for me one last time, darling. We will never be apart again.”

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“I will miss you,” Fran whispered. “Kiss me.”

Hand in hand, they walked into the nursery where Destiny still slept. When Charlie returned home, she would be almost four. He reached into her crib, his soft touch on her cheek awakened her. With a bright smile, she squealed when she saw him. “Daddy!” 

“Daddy is going bye-bye, sweet pea. I’ll see you soon.” He lifted her from the crib and covered her face in kisses. Her giggles filled his heart with joy. “Oh, Destiny, Daddy loves you so much.” 

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“Daddy! Daddy!” she babbled and continued to giggle. He held the baby close to him and wept into her hair, Fran’s arms around him. It would be their last time as a family for eighteen months. Outside, a horn sounded for his carpool, and Charlie sighed.

“Be a good girl for Mama, Destiny,” Charlie said and kissed his daughter one last time. He placed Destiny into her crib and turned out the light. Hand in hand, they walked downstairs to the front door. 

“I will wait for your call tonight,” Fran cried. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Charlie, be safe. I love you to the moon and back.” 

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“I love you, darling, and I will call you tonight. Pray for us, love. I will come home.” He kissed her one last time, grabbed his duffle bag, and slung it over his shoulder. Halfway to the car, he turned to blow one last kiss. “I love you, Frannie,” he called to her. She watched him get into the car and drive away.  

Fran walked back into the house and up the steps to their bedroom. She got back into bed alone, pulled the covers over her head, and cried herself to sleep.

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Up Next: Chapter Fifteen, Part Two, Generation One


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Clover
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Mod The Sims

Baby Love by Traelia
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MyPalSims
Sad Pose Pack

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Sports Bag by CycloneSue
Nuk Pacifier Set by Lutetia
Crib Blanket by Ung999
GardenRose Living Chair by Severinka

G1 Chapter Fourteen – Life With Destiny

The Farmers settled into a new routine with Destiny as the central focus. Everything Fran and Charlie did revolved around their miracle baby. He took two weeks’ vacation to help Fran settle into a schedule. They both had precious bonding time with their daughter.

Destiny’s hungry cries woke Fran from a sound sleep, so she went to the crib, lifted her, and carried her back to bed. Propped on a pillow, she cradled their daughter in her arms and nursed her. The baby’s soft grunts were music to Fran’s ears as she ate, in love with the babe she held in her arms. 

A soft burp awakened Charlie about ten minutes later as Fran coaxed the bubbles from Destiny’s tummy. Fran snickered and greeted him. “Good morning, Daddy,” she said. 

“Good morning, beautiful,” he replied. “How’s the baby this morning?” 

“She was hungry, but I didn’t want to sit in my rocker to feed her this morning, so I came back to bed.” She nestled Destiny back into her arms and settled her to finish nursing.

“I’m glad you did, honey. She is so beautiful.” The baby had a silky, fine crown of sparse red hair, violet eyes, and fair skin.

Fran stroked Destiny’s cheek. “I wish I could say she looks like you love, but in reality, she’s a Hutchins through and through.” 

Charlie smiled at them. “There’s nothing wrong with that, sweetie.” 

“Her eyes are so unique. No one has violet eyes.” Fran sat Destiny up to burp her. 

Charlie shrugged. “I don’t know. No one in my family has eyes that color, either.” 

“Well,” Fran said, “it doesn’t matter where she got them. They are unusual, and they are hers.” She adjusted the baby and settled her in her arms, her pacifier in her mouth. “She will be asleep soon. Would you like to hold her?”  

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“I will next time, sweetie. She looks comfortable, but I’ll take her from you when she is asleep, so you don’t have to get up.” He touched Fran’s arm. “How are you feeling, my love?” 

“I’m tired, but I feel okay. Starla said everything looked good when she was here yesterday. She played with the baby for a while.” Fran yawned. “I think she’s almost asleep.” 

“Will you need help with the baby, Frannie? How are you managing?”

“I’ve been doing okay. I’ll rest when Destiny sleeps, and what doesn’t get done while you’re not home, I’ll do when you are.” Fran brushed a lock of hair from the baby’s forehead. “Would you get her, Charlie?”

He smiled. “Of course I will, love.” Charlie took Destiny and kissed her forehead and walked to the nursery with her.

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He placed her into the crib and watched as she settled down to sleep. 

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“She is such a good baby, Frannie. We are so lucky.” Charlie walked back to the bedroom and laid down beside her.

“Let’s sleep while she does, love. Housework will still be here when we wake up,” Fran suggested. 

“Why not?” Charlie agreed and curled up with Fran in bed. They fell asleep, holding each other.


“Please, baby girl, don’t cry,” Fran begged her three-month-old daughter. Destiny cried all night with colic and wore Fran out. The baby stopped crying for a moment, and Fran breathed a sigh of relief. She tiptoed up the stairs and walked through their bedroom. Please don’t cry, please don’t cry, she thought. Charlie slept a full night. His alarm would sound soon for work, but she didn’t wish to wake him. Fran cuddled Destiny in her arms and kissed her forehead. “That’s my good girl—”

Destiny screamed and startled Charlie awake in the next room. Fran sighed in frustration, almost in tears herself. She sat on the floor, a pillow under her leg, and draped the baby over her arm. Charlie crawled from the bed and hobbled to the nursery. 

“Oh love, I’m sorry,” she cried. “I thought her screaming was over, so I brought her upstairs. I had hoped to get some rest. She’s had me up all night.” 

“Oh, honey,” he sat down beside her. “Do you need my help today? I can call in sick if you need me.” 

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Fran looked at him, tears in her eyes. “You would do that for me?” 

“Oh, sweetie, why do you even question that? Of course, I will.” He tilted her face to look into her eyes. “You must be sleepy. I’ll call Lorne, and I will take her for a little while. You get some sleep.” 

Fran handed Destiny to Charlie, who took her place with the pillow propped under his leg, and as she had done, draped their daughter over his arm. She cooed and settled down in his arms, and Charlie rubbed her back. Fran kissed him before she stood. 

“Thank you,” she said. “Don’t let me sleep past noon, please?” 

“Anything you want, Frannie love,” he said as she walked into their bedroom.

Charlie and Destiny played together for an hour, sitting on the floor in the nursery. But she fussed well before Fran wanted to be awake. Destiny’s hungry cries broke the silence in the bedroom, and Charlie cringed when he saw Fran stir. 

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” he said. “I thought the monitor was off.” 

“It wouldn’t have mattered anyway,” Fran replied. “I have her food.” She sat in the rocking chair and reached for Destiny. “Here, love, I’ll take her.” 

Charlie sat and watched Fran nurse the baby, in awe of her. She was a natural. “Frannie, I love you. You’re a wonderful mama.” 

Fran blushed. “This is the simple part. It’s juggling everything else in the house in the few hours a day I have when she is content. Once I get that mastered, I’m golden.” She crossed her legs to get a better angle for the baby and settled her again. “That’s better.” 

“I’m going to suggest something, Frannie. I’d like you to think about it.”

Fran stiffened up. “I’ll listen, but I’m not fond of where this might lead.” 

“It’s nothing bad, I promise. With spring coming soon, I was thinking about hiring some help for you in the garden this year, and with Marne. You have your hands full with a three-month-old baby, honey. Wouldn’t it be nice to not worry about the garden this year?” 

Fran lowered her eyes from his gaze. “I was already considering not planting this year, Charlie. Between Marne, Destiny, and Sweetie will be back on the farm in late spring. I won’t have the time this year.” 

“Not at all?” Charlie asked. The garden had been vital to their survival, and he couldn’t imagine going a whole growing season without it.

“Not at all. Hiring someone to help will eat the profits we would have made by planting it. I don’t see an upside to doing it.” She sat Destiny up to burp her and rubbed her back. 

“Well, I guess that’s a no for Marne and Sweetie, too.” 

“I’m sorry, love. I don’t think we’ll be able to justify the expense of a stable hand for them. Once Destiny is old enough, I can put her playpen on the back porch and care for the horses while she plays.” The baby burped, and Charlie laughed at her. Fran chuckled at both of them. “Your daddy thinks you’re silly, my sweet baby girl.” Destiny gave her first good giggle, and Charlie’s heart melted into goo. 

“She laughed! And I heard her do it, too,” Charlie exclaimed.

“That’s the first time she has done that, love. I’m so happy you didn’t miss it.” She reached for his hand, and he took it, gave it a quick squeeze, and kissed it. “It’s a welcome sound after a night of crying. Maybe soon she’ll be over this hump, and she will sleep better.” 

“I sure hope so for your sake, Frannie. You look wiped out.” 

“I feel wiped out, but she’s almost asleep. Maybe if I lay her down, we can both rest.” Fran yawned and rubbed her eyes.

Charlie stood. “Well, I will not waste today, love. I’ll take Marne for a nice long ride while you two nap. She needs a little TLC.” 

“That sounds good. Marne will enjoy the extra attention today.” Charlie placed the baby into the crib. Fran looked at him, her eyes bleary. “Thank you.” 

“Anything for you, my love,” he replied. 

Charlie changed clothes and went to take Marne for a ride. The mare greeted him with a friendly nicker; her hopes high for a cube of sugar, or a fresh carrot from the house. He patted her nose and hugged her neck. “How’s my girl today?” he asked her. A sharp whinny answered him, and she nudged his shoulder with her nose.

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A light coat of snow dusted the ground, not unusual for the time of year, but it wasn’t cold either. Some trees still had leaves from the fall, and the snow cover was beautiful. He led Marne back to the barn to get her saddle and pad and then mounted on her back, cleared the fence in a quick jump. 

He guided Marne toward the equestrian center to run some jumping fences. Marne was a fast, agile horse, sure on her feet and capable of clearing the most challenging gates. The sun was out. The snow had stopped and had already melted. Charlie hadn’t jumped with her this season, but she was a quick study. On their first obstacle, Marne jumped with ease and cleared it. 

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Oliver Farnam was out with his Arabian stallion grooming him when he noticed Charlie on Marne’s back. He whistled to Charlie and caught his attention, so Charlie nudged Marne toward him.

“Hi, Oliver!” Charlie greeted him. “It’s a beautiful spring day, is it not?” 

“Indeed!” Oliver replied. “How’s our girl doing?” 

“She’s fantastic. Thanks!  I thought I’d bring her out and do some jumping this morning.”

“How’s Fran and the baby? I heard you had a little girl. Congratulations!” Oliver shook Charlie’s hand and patted his knee. 

Charlie beamed with pride. “We did and thank you. Both of my beautiful little ladies are doing great. Frannie could use a little more sleep, but she loves being a mama.” 

“Well, I’m happy to hear you two have caught a good streak. I know you’ve had a rough time since your last deployment. It couldn’t have been easy to see your brothers cut down like that.”

Charlie swallowed a lump of emotion. “It wasn’t. It’s something I will never forget as long as I draw a breath, Oliver.” 

“Well, Sophie and I are happy for you two. If anyone deserves it, it would be you and Frannie. When will Sweetie be back from training?” Oliver inquired.

“Late spring is what Frannie said. She had planned to ride Sweetie, but with the baby, we will need to have a jockey ride her if we race her.” Charlie patted Marne’s neck. She fidgeted and got restless. 

“It’s not a bad idea. If you two need help, I’m always here.” 

“Thank you,” Charlie replied. “I think I either need to keep riding Marne or get her home. She’s getting antsy. It was good to see you!” 

“Tell Fran I said hi, and congratulations from Sophie and me.” Oliver waved as Charlie turned Marne toward home. 

“Will do!” Charlie yelled and waved.

*****

Charlie finished grooming Marne after their long ride and jumping exercises and strapped her warm blanket around her. “Sorry, girl, it’s too cold tonight to leave the barn open. You’re staying in here.” He patted her neck, and she nickered at him. Charlie spread some fresh hay in her stall and locked the gate behind her. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Marne.” 

Fran sat by the fireplace when Charlie came home. He kicked his muddy boots off in the sunroom and padded into the kitchen.

“Charlie?” Fran called him.

“It’s me, love,” he replied. “Do you need me?” 

“Not anymore,” she sighed. “Destiny screamed all day. I just got her settled. You were away for a long time.” 

Charlie looked at his watch. Five-thirty in the afternoon! “Oh, Frannie, I’m so sorry, love. I stayed home to help you, and I spent the day away from you when you needed me.” 

She stood and handed their daughter to him. “Tag, you’re it,” she said, a chilly tone in her voice. “I haven’t slept all day or all night, and I’m exhausted. I’m going to sleep.” 

“Have you had supper?” he asked.

Fran shook her head. “I’m too tired to eat, love. I just want to go to bed and forget today ever happened.” She kissed his cheek and turned to go. “I love you.” 

“I’m sorry, Frannie. I’ll take care of her tonight.” He caught her arm as she walked away and looked into her eyes. “I love you, honey.” She only nodded at him as she climbed the steps.

Charlie looked at their daughter, who smiled at him and giggled. “I guess it’s just you and me tonight, sweet pea,” he cooed at her. While Destiny played in the swing, Charlie fixed dinner for himself, a quick grilled cheese sandwich. But as he sat to eat it, the baby cried. 

He walked to her swing and stopped the motion, picked her up, and cradled her into his arms. She quieted in his arms long enough for him to eat his sandwich, but when he set her down to wash dishes, she screamed again. 

“What has you so upset, little one?” he tried to comfort her. He rocked her in his arms, and paced the floor with her, bounced her, rubbed her back and belly to no avail. She cried no matter what Charlie did. Nothing soothed her. 

At two o’clock that morning, Charlie was tired. He’d been up with Destiny and held her as she cried, fed her, changed her, and nothing helped. At his wit’s end, he woke Fran. 

“Charlie?” 

“Baby, please help me. Destiny won’t stop crying. I’ve done everything I can think of, but nothing helps to settle her. I need to report to base soon, and I haven’t slept.”

Fran sat up in bed. She considered making him deal with it, but she took pity on him. “I’ll take her, love. Sleep while you have the chance. I’m surprised you didn’t wake me earlier.” 

“I was going to, but you were a bit chilly to me. And I figured I deserved it after leaving you with her all day.”

“We will talk about that later. Sleep, Charlie. Get some rest.” She wrapped her warm robe around herself and took a whimpering baby from him. She kissed him and walked from the room, Destiny in her arms. 

Downstairs, she placed the baby into her swing and set the speed to low. Destiny giggled and babbled while Fran put the teakettle on in the kitchen. She noticed the thick layer of frost on the grass and a ring around the moon. It meant snow. 

She prepared her tea, took the baby from the swing, and sat in front of the television with her. For about half an hour, Destiny was comfortable and laid in Fran’s arms. When she fussed, Fran nursed her, and she acted ravenous. “Aww, baby girl, didn’t Daddy feed you?” 

When Destiny fell asleep in her arms, Fran carried her upstairs to the nursery. She hadn’t cried since Fran had been awake, and she settled into the crib and slept. Tired, Fran walked back into the bedroom and saw Charlie sleeping. So she crawled into bed with him and curled around him. He stirred when he felt her beside him.

“Frannie, I’m sorry I left you with a crying baby today. I didn’t plan to leave for the day.” His regret was tremendous, and he felt terrible.

“It’s okay, Charlie. Time flies when you’re riding a horse. It does with me, too. I will call her doctor in the morning. It’s hard to see her scream for hours at a time.” 

“I’m going to stay home today, sweetie, and when I get up, I will take baby duty. I tried to give her some formula last night, but she didn’t want it. I guess she either wasn’t hungry or didn’t like it.” 

“That explains why she was hungry last night,” Fran said. “She nursed very well before I came to bed.” She snuggled up to Charlie, and he embraced her. “I’m sorry I left you hanging last night with Destiny. I was angry, but I shouldn’t have just pushed her on you. Was she okay?” 

“She was for a little while. Then she screamed for hours until I came and woke you. I don’t have enough sleep to be productive at work, but I promise you I am here to help you today, love. Marne can run in the yard and graze in our little pasture.” 

“We’ll care for her together, babe. For now, let’s just sleep. I know you’re exhausted, and I still need sleep, too.” She snuggled closer into his arms, and he kissed her forehead. 

“That’s the best idea yet, honey. I love you so much, Frannie, it hurts.” 

“I love you forever, Charlie.” They clung to one another and slept.

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Up Next: Chapter Fifteen, Part One, Generation One


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*****
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G1 Chapter Thirteen – Fran’s Destiny

Charlie spent the day painting perched atop a small stepladder. “Almost there,” he said, pleased with his progress. He loaded the roller with paint one last time and touched up his work.

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He set the paint roller down and stepped back off the bottom rung. The sitting room next to their bedroom was now the nursery for their baby. 

“It looks great,” Fran said. “I love the paint color. I’m surprised it covered the dark blue Daddy painted it all those years ago.” 

Charlie laughed. “The paint soaked right into the wall. I should have primed it first, but it covered it. The pink looks pretty.”

Fran rested in the chair that sat in their bedroom and patted the baby. “The nursery will be beautiful and decorating it will give me something to do.”

“I don’t want you to overdo it, my love. You still have plenty of time.” 

“As long as I’m working to get things ready. Just sitting here is making me crazy.” Fran felt the baby flutter, and she smiled. “She’s on the move.”

Charlie walked to Fran, excited. “I’ve been waiting for this moment,” he exclaimed. “Hello, sweet baby girl.” He placed his hand near Fran’s and felt a slight movement. 

“Are you disappointed it’s not a boy, honey? I know you’re the last Farmer to pass the name along.” She touched his hand and intertwined her fingers with his.

Charlie looked at her, incredulous. “Of course not! Frannie, as long as she is healthy, I don’t care what we have. I love both of you beyond measure.” 

“We still have to pick a name for her. What if we named her after your Ma?”

Charlie shrugged. “She always hated the name Faith, which is why she went by Dolly. How about Penny?” 

Fran wrinkled her nose. “I mean no disrespect to Mama, but no. And I don’t want her named after me or you either. It needs to be a meaningful name, but not a family name.”

“We have time to figure it out. You’re only twenty-two weeks along.”

“That reminds me,” Fran said and stood. “I need to take my belly picture.” She walked into the bedroom and stood before the full-length mirror.

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“For posterity,” she sighed and captured her image on her phone. “I feel so fat!” Fran called Charlie. He walked into the bedroom behind her.

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“Let’s see it, baby,” he whispered into her ear and held her. She showed the picture she had taken to him, and he hugged her closer. “That is a beautiful picture, my Frannie. It’s perfect.” 

She nuzzled into his embrace and smiled. “I love that you still love me, even though I’m the size of a house.” 

Charlie laughed. “Honey, you’re nowhere near house-sized yet.” He kissed her cheek before he released his grasp. He expected a swat, but Fran erupted in a fit of giggles. 

“Not yet, huh? I’d chase you, but I’m pregnant.” She gave him an impish smile. 

“Yeah, you are,” Charlie replied with an ear-to-ear grin. He held his arms open for her, and she embraced him. “I hope you never doubt how much I love you, Frannie.” 

“Never, Charlie.” The sun disappeared and made the room dark—thunder sounded in the distance. “I guess we’re not opening the window.” 

“Will you be okay to sleep in the next room tonight if we can’t open the window? I know the fumes make you sick..” 

“I should be. Maybe open the window before it rains? We should have about half an hour before it gets here.” She peered out the window in their bedroom. “It might not even rain here, though. The thunder clouds are in the western sky.”  

He walked back to the nursery and opened the two windows closest to their bedroom. “There,” he exclaimed. “This should do it.” Fresh air entered the room with a breeze from the east. “It smells better already.” 

“What would you like for supper tonight, love?” Frannie asked him. “I can make anything you’d like.”

“Why don’t I cook tonight, baby? You need to take care of yourself.” In the months since her pregnancy began, Charlie’s cooking ability had grown. “Let me spoil you, Frannie.” 

“Charlie, I’m supposed to be spoiling you,” she protested. “How about steak tips? I know it’s your favorite thing.” 

“Steak tips sound amazing, but I’ll cook, my love. Why don’t you cuddle up in my recliner and rest? It would make me happy, honey.” 

Fran smiled. “Okay, Charlie. You win.” 

*****

After supper, Charlie fed Marne, collected eggs and fed the chickens, and watered the garden. He was tired when he walked up the steps to their bedroom, and when he opened the door, Fran stood in the nursery, her hands on her belly. 

“Your crib will go here.” She patted her tummy as she spoke. “It’s going to be so pretty, my little princess.” Charlie walked up behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Hi, love,” she said.

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“Showing her around?” he asked and chuckled. 

She nodded. “Yes, in my way. I just like talking to her. I want her to know my voice, to know it’s me. Do I make sense, Charlie?” 

He hugged her and rested his head on her shoulder. “You make perfect sense, love. No one will break your bond with her. You’re her mama, honey. She is your destiny.” 

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Fran’s eyes brightened with excitement. “That’s it, Charlie! That’s what I want to name her!” 

“Destiny?” 

“Yes!” Fran was excited. “When we first got together, Mama told me you were my destiny. That would be a perfect name for her, don’t you think?”

Charlie smiled and nodded his head. “I love it, Frannie. Destiny Farmer. You’re right, baby, it’s perfect.” 

“Charlie, my back is aching. Would you give me a massage?” she turned around in his arms and kissed him.

“For you, my love, I’ll do anything.”

Fran did not open her stall at the farmer’s market that year. With one-third of the plants, Charlie had less to tend. Since Fran entered her second trimester, he had taken over every responsibility she had on the farm, despite her loud protests. 

Fran hadn’t seen their friends Caleb and Sunny Bradford since he tilled the garden earlier in the season, so she took a stroll down the street with Marne in tow on her halter. The doctor advised her not to ride, but Marne still needed exercise. Fran felt a little foolish walking a horse like a dog on a leash.

Sunny saw her friend approach the house and waved from the mailbox. “You’re looking great, Frannie!” she chirped. “I can see why you didn’t rent your stall this year.” Sunny reached to pat Marne’s head, and the mare nickered at her. 

“Charlie finished painting the nursery yesterday, and I’m almost ready to decorate. There are a few pieces of my old baby furniture. We haven’t gotten things we need yet.” 

“What do you need for the baby?” Sunny knew Fran would never ask for help, even if she needed it. She believed no new mother should have a baby without a proper shower. If no one else would plan one, then Sunny would. 

“Mama kept my old crib, which Charlie is going to fix up. He’ll refinish my old dresser. The rest will come in time. The procedure set us back a bit more than we’d hoped, but you know, I’m not getting younger. We had to act, or we would have missed out.” 

Sunny shook her head. “Nope, that’s not acceptable. Frannie, I’m going to throw a baby shower. You and Charlie have had more than your share of hard times, and we’ve been happy to bless you in the valleys. But that precious baby you’re carrying, Frannie, that baby deserves every good thing because you and Charlie deserve it. I’m not taking no for an answer on this, either. I’m going to organize it and take care of everything. You just need to show up!”

Fran’s eyes welled with tears. “Sunny, we can’t—”

“Nope!” Sunny replied. “I’m throwing a shower for you, end of discussion.” She hugged Fran in a friendly embrace. “Do you know what you’re having, or is it a surprise?” 

“A daughter. We’re having a girl.” Marne tugged on her lead and pawed at the ground. “Her name will be Destiny. I’m struggling with a middle name because I don’t want to carry my Mama’s tradition forward.”

“What’s the tradition, Frannie?” 

“The first female child takes the first name of her maternal grandmother, and the first male child takes the first name of his maternal grandfather. I hate my middle name,” Fran said. 

Sunny chuckled. “Dare I ask?” 

“Justine. Frances Justine is my full name. Charlie doesn’t even know my middle name!” Sunny wrinkled her nose. “That would make Destiny’s middle name Penelope if I were to follow the tradition. But it doesn’t go with her first name.” 

“Well, a tradition is a tradition, Frannie. Maybe Penelope will grow on you?” 

Fran shrugged. “It might, but I can’t stomach the thought of it right now.” Marne nudged Fran’s shoulder and whinnied. “I think my girl is trying to tell me something, Sunny. I suppose I should walk her back home. Besides, my back is aching to beat the band.” 

Sunny smiled at her friend. “I’ll let you know when I get things arranged for your shower, but expect it within the next month or two. We’re going to get you and Charlie all ready for Destiny’s arrival. You can count on it, my sweet friend. Do you need me to bring you home? It’s a long walk from here, Frannie.” 

“Oh, no, it’s okay. I should exercise. I don’t get anywhere near enough anymore. Besides, Marne and I have had little bonding time since I got pregnant. She misses Sweetie. I know that for certain. She isn’t the only one, either.” 

“Well, when Charlie asks, don’t tell him I didn’t offer!” Sunny laughed and waved as Fran turned to go. “I’ll call you.” 

“Thank you, Sun,” Fran yelled. 

*****

“How was work today, love?” Fran asked Charlie as he plopped in his recliner. 

“Long. Boring. Having a desk job isn’t as exciting as being in the field.” He sat forward in his chair and rubbed his temples. “I know you prefer my desk job, especially after my injury and the fiasco overseas, but I rather miss being out with the guys.” 

“You’re right, Charlie, I do like your desk job a lot better.” She rubbed his shoulders, and he breathed a deep sigh of relief. “Does that feel better, love?” 

He nuzzled his face into her hand and kissed her fingers. “Mmhmm,” he groaned. “Oh Frannie, I need to care for Marne and the garden. I’d much rather stay in here and take care of you. Why don’t you sit and let me cook supper tonight?” 

“Charlie, you work all day, and then you come home to do my chores. At some point, you’re going to burn out. I don’t want you to resent me.” She kissed the top of his head and continued to massage his neck and shoulders. 

“Aww, I will never resent you, sweetheart. Your job is the most important one. You’re growing our precious baby girl. It’s the only job you need.” He stood and kissed her. “I’m going to change for yard work. If you need me, I’ll be outside, my love.” 

After supper, Charlie sat on the floor at Fran’s feet to massage them. One by one, he rubbed the muscles in her legs and ankles and worked out the soreness and fatigue. Fran sat content in his recliner and enjoyed the pampering, her eyes closed. But he noticed her relaxed state, gave her an impish smile, and ran his fingertips along the insole of her foot. Fran jumped out of her skin and giggled. 

“Charlie! My feet are ticklish!” she laughed. 

“I know, sweetheart. Why do you think I did it?” he flirted. 

She continued to laugh as he switched feet, and she remembered her visit with Sunny earlier that morning. “I meant to tell you, babe. I saw Sunny this morning while I was out with Marne.” 

At first, Charlie glared at her. “You’re not supposed to be riding.” 

“I wasn’t. I walked Marne like a dog on a leash. It felt a little foolish, but she needs exercise, and so do I.”

It relieved Charlie to hear it. “What’s up with the Bradfords?” 

“Oh, not much. Sunny, um, wants to throw a baby shower for me.” 

“Well, that’s nice of her.” 

Fran fiddled with her shirt. “Well, I tried to tell her no, but she wouldn’t hear it.”

“Why would you say no, love? Baby showers are pretty standard, right?” 

“They are, but I feel funny about it. I mean, Caleb and Sunny have done so much for us over the years. I will need to repay their kindness.” Charlie hit a tense muscle in her calf, and she sighed relief as he massaged it. “Oh, that’s good right there,” she purred. 

“I’m sure someday we will repay their kindness. But we could use the baby things, at least to get us started. That old crib in the attic, it’s just not in workable condition, love.” 

Fran sighed. “Really? That’s disappointing. I hoped our daughter could sleep as I did when I was a babe.” 

“There is a lot of dry rot in the wooden frame, honey. I wouldn’t trust it for a cat right now.” He finished his massage and kissed her foot. 

“You are a brave man to kiss these tootsies,” Fran laughed. “Ugh, Charlie, I feel so fat. I don’t know what I would do without you.” 

He ran his fingers up to her leg and snuggled closer to her. “Oh, you would be totally lost without me.” 

She swatted him. “You are such a brat,” she giggled.

“But you know you love me, anyway.” He laid his head in her lap. 

“Why don’t we go snuggle in bed together?” she suggested. 

“Snuggle, you say?” he flirted.

“Or whatever.” 

“I like the sound of whatever,” he replied. Together, they climbed the steps to their bedroom.


Two months later, Fran and Charlie walked up the steps to the Bradford house. Caleb decorated the house with pink balloons and streamers, and a wooden stork cutout he had crafted and painted at work. Sunny prepared her home for the baby shower, and it was beautiful. 

“Welcome!” Sunny greeted both of them. “Come in! Make yourselves at home.” She took Fran’s hand and led her back to their sizable living room. “I hope you have a good time today!”

“We can’t thank you enough, Sun, for everything you have done over the years.”

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Sunny embraced her friend. “Psh. It was nothing. You and Charlie deserve this shower. You know that, right?” 

Fran smiled at Sunny. “Thank you.” Her emotions choked her words.   

One by one, the guests arrived, greeted, and congratulated Fran and Charlie. With money collected from their friends at the market, Sunny purchased most of the larger items Charlie and Fran would need for the baby. Besides the pooled money, each guest brought a smaller gift and a dish for a potluck supper.

Everyone sat and shared a meal. Sunny asked Charlie to pray. And he did so, thankful for their friends and their unborn daughter. 

After supper, Fran’s chair sat in front of the fireplace by a growing pile of gifts. Charlie made himself comfortable on the sofa closest to her seat, a borrowed camera by his side. He wanted to ensure Fran never forgot this day. Sunny sat by her side, a baby book in her hands, and recorded each gift into it for her while Charlie took photos. 

When the shower ended, Fran and Charlie had almost everything they needed for the baby. Caleb helped Charlie pack the gifts into the back of their pickup, and together they secured it. “Do you need help at the house, Charlie? I can follow you and help you bring all this stuff inside.”

“That would be fantastic, Caleb, thank you!” Charlie replied. 

An hour later, the guys had every piece of furniture in the house. Charlie tried to give Caleb money for his help, but he refused. “Please, Caleb, your help was so valuable to me. Let me do something.” 

“Charlie, this is what friends do. You have done more than your share by serving this country. It’s the least I can do.” Caleb patted Charlie on the back. 

“I don’t tell either of you how much I appreciate you—how you helped Frannie while I was overseas. Tilling our garden every spring, and just being here when we needed friends. Thank you.” 

Caleb nodded his head. “We love you guys, but I’m sure you know that.”

“We do, and we love you and your sweet family. Hey, thanks again, Caleb. We’ll do a cookout together before the summer ends, and we’re into cold weather again.” 

He nodded. “When is Frannie due? We don’t want to impose on you guys.” 

“Oh, her due date is close to winter, but not quite Snowflake Day. We have some time yet.” 

“Then, we’ll plan on it!” Caleb replied. “We’ll talk soon.” 

“Count on it,” Charlie said. 

Upstairs, their friends’ generosity overwhelmed Fran. She looked at everything in the nursery. In her mind, she tried to picture how she would arrange everything, and she smiled. Charlie walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. 

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“A penny for your thoughts, my love.”

“Charlie, we are so blessed. I mean, look at all this stuff. We won’t need anything else.”

“We have wonderful friends, honey. There is no doubt about that.” He nuzzled his face into her hair. “By the way, I invited Caleb and Sunny for a cookout.” 

Fran laughed. “That would be fun!” 

“How about we relax, sweetie?” You look like you could use a massage.” 

“I can always use a massage from you, my love.” 


Snow fell that day, even though the calendar said autumn. A month ago, frost and cold destroyed the garden, but none of their produce made it to the market. Fran preserved everything for use over the winter. Charlie placed another two logs into the fireplace and poked at the fire. “I’m going to check on Marne, honey,” he said as he wrapped up in his coat. “I’ll be back inside in a few minutes.” 

She nodded. “I’m okay. Take your time.” Fran’s pregnancy had progressed well. The baby was healthy and due soon. But she was active, and Fran was uncomfortable. She put the leg rest of the recliner up and snuggled into the chair’s cushion. The fire crackled and popped in the hearth.

Charlie came back inside twenty minutes later, his coat covered in snowflakes. He shivered as the warm air hit him. “It’s freezing out there, love. I hope Marne’s blanket is warm enough for her.” 

Fran groaned. “I’m sure she will be fine. The barn should shelter her from the weather and cold.” 

“Are you okay, Frannie? You don’t sound good.” 

“I’m ready for Destiny to get here. I’m uncomfortable. My feet swelled up, my eyes won’t stay open, and I’m just plain miserable.” 

Charlie sat at her feet, a place he had grown accustomed to sitting, and took one foot into his hands. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry you don’t feel well.”

Fran laid her head back on the chair and exhaled. “I will not let you stop doing that, Charlie.” 

“As long as you need it, love, I’ll be here for you.” 

“I need to get up and stretch. Help me up?” She sat forward on the recliner, and pain shot through her back. Charlie saw the discomfort on her face and frowned.

“Are you okay?” 

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I’m going to lie down in the sitting room.” Fran waddled to the adjoining room and settled down on the couch. She napped for a couple of hours until a sharp pain awakened her. Fran sat up and yelped. Charlie, who napped by the fireplace, heard her and ran to her side. 

“I think the baby is coming, Charlie!” she exclaimed. 

“We’d better get going, then. It’s still snowing like mad out there.” 

He helped her to the garage and into their pickup truck. Charlie eased into the street, headed toward the hospital. 

“Hurry, Charlie,” she cried. “She’s coming fast!” 

“I’m doing my best, love,” he replied. “Breathe, Frannie. We’re going to make it.” 

Minutes later, they walked through the doors of the emergency department. “Labor,” Frannie croaked out, her hands on her belly. A nurse summoned a wheelchair for her and whisked her away into a room. 

Dr. Engle got Charlie herself from the waiting room and brought him to the delivery room. “Fran’s ready to go,” she told him. “Let’s go meet your daughter.”

Destiny Penelope Farmer was born just before midnight on the eve of winter’s arrival, and she was beautiful, pink, and perfect. Dr. Engle handed the baby to Charlie after she wrapped her in a pink receiving blanket, and tears filled his eyes. 

“Hello, my sweet baby girl,” he cooed at her. “Let’s go meet your mama.” And as he promised Fran twenty years earlier, he placed their baby girl into her arms. “I love you, my Frannie,” he whispered into her ear as his wife cuddled their newborn daughter. “You did good, my love.” 

She looked at Destiny, a fluff of red hair on her head and the prettiest violet eyes she had ever seen, and Fran cried. “Hello, my sweet pea. I’m your mama.” 

Not long afterward, they moved Fran to a room with the baby’s bassinet nearby. She was sitting up nursing Destiny when Charlie walked in. Fran moved over and Charlie laid down beside them, in awe of the miracle his beautiful wife held in her arms. 

“Oh Frannie, we made a beautiful little girl, perfect in every way, just like her mama.” He snuggled close and watched. 

“Thank you, Charlie, for our daughter. You promised you wouldn’t stop until you placed a wiggly, pink babe into my arms. You’ve been steadfast and determined to make this happen. Today, I am the luckiest woman alive.” 

“This baby, Frannie. She is your legacy. You waited years through setback after setback, through two deployments. And now, you have what your heart desired most. I can tell already she is going to be your spitting image. My two beautiful ladies. I couldn’t love you more.”

Dr. Engle checked on Fran before she headed home for the evening and found the family snuggled together in Fran’s hospital bed. She approached them and whispered.

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“How are you feeling, Fran?” 

Fran yawned. “I’m sleepy, I’m a little sore, but I am the happiest I’ve ever been.”

“I’m thrilled for you two. You’ve been through much, and you deserve this happiness now. Enjoy your new baby. Destiny is adorable.” 

“Thank you, Starla, for everything,” Fran whispered.  

The next morning, Dr. Engle discharged Fran and Destiny from the hospital. Charlie brought them home in their pickup truck. He carried the baby upstairs with Fran right behind him, and he placed their daughter into her brand new crib. 

Fran yawned and laid her head on Charlie’s shoulder. “I’m sleepy. I’m going to nap while Destiny sleeps. Care to come to snuggle with me, love?” 

“I would love that, my Frannie.” He took her hand and together they walked to the bed, laid down and cuddled together, their first night at home as a family. 

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Up Next: Chapter Fourteen, Generation One


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G1 Chapter Twelve – A Prayer Is Answered

Ten years later

“Farmer!” the intercom on his phone called out. “My office, please.” 

Charlie stood and straightened his jacket. He took his cap from the rack in the corner of his office and placed it upon his head. Satisfied with his appearance, Charlie stepped out into the hallway and walked toward the office of his commanding officer. He readied himself at the doorway and knocked. 

“Come in, Colonel Farmer,” the voice beckoned him.

Charlie opened the door and walked inside, turned, and closed the door behind him. He snapped his posture to attention and saluted the Major General, who stood before him. “Colonel Charles Farmer,” he announced. 

“At ease, Colonel,” General Turek said. “Take a seat.” He shuffled some papers on his desk and looked up at Charlie. It was a dreaded conversation, for he feared the Colonel would take the opportunity and run with it. Lorne Turek did not want Charlie to separate from the armed forces, but as his commanding officer, he needed to offer retirement.

“Farmer, I think you know why I called you here today.” Lorne bowed his head. “You’re eligible for retirement, and I need to—”

“Before you go further, Lorne, I will not retire. Not this year, anyway. Frannie and I discussed it at length, and she wants me to stay. We’re in a place where we are getting ahead. We’ve been saving money for a medical procedure for the past twenty years, Lorne. She and I are almost there, and I’m afraid if I leave a guaranteed income now…” Charlie lowered his eyes. “Neither of us is getting any younger, and that door is closing on us. I promised her a baby.” 

Lorne scratched his chin. “How old is Frannie?” 

“She will be forty this year. We’re almost at a point where the doctor won’t consider in vitro anymore. But Frannie has waited through every setback, every hardship, my two deployments. She hasn’t complained once. Lorne, I owe her this. I need this post.” 

Lorne nodded his head and smiled. “Four more years? Or should we have this conversation again next year?” 

Charlie laughed. “Let’s go four more. If I don’t have a wiggly, pink babe to put into her arms by then, I’ll consider retirement, and we’ll ride off into the sunset together on her palomino horse.”

“Charlie, you should have said something earlier about in vitro. Our insurance might cover some expenses. It’s not experimental these days.” 

“Well, remember the plague in Dragon Valley? The treatments they gave me damaged me. The procedure was experimental because they had to pick the undamaged cells and manually fertilize them. That’s where we ran into some money issues, to the tune of twenty-five thousand.”

Lorne almost dropped his cup of coffee. “Twenty-five grand? Damn, Charlie, that’s a lot of money.” He jotted a phone number down. “Give these folks a call. See if they cover that procedure now. I’d bet my boxers they will.” 

Charlie laughed. “I don’t want to see you without your boxers, so I’m not taking that bet. But thank you.” The men finished the meeting and Charlie left Lorne’s office with a renewed spring in his step and hope in his heart. Maybe this would be the year their dreams came true.

*****

Marne had given birth the previous year to a purebred Arabian palomino. Fran was caring for the yearling filly when Charlie returned from work. They would take Sweetie to train as a racehorse soon. In the meantime, Fran doted on her and loved her the same way she loved Marne.

Charlie walked into the yard, and Marne heard him coming, so she pranced to greet him. She nickered at Charlie in the hope he had a cube of sugar in his pocket. He chuckled at her and rubbed her nose. “How’s our baby today, Marne?” he asked. 

“Charlie?” Fran called. “Is that you?” 

“It’s me,” he answered and continued toward the barn. He peeked inside to see Fran with a towel. She rubbed the excess water from Sweetie’s coat and patted her back. 

“Don’t you look pretty?” he exclaimed at the filly and walked to where Fran stood. He patted Sweetie’s nose and kissed his wife. “Hi, love.” 

“I just bathed her. Isn’t she beautiful?” Fran stood back and admired her work. Sweetie was the spitting image of her mother. But she had two stockings on her legs—the front two like the sire.

“She is, and so are you, baby,” he flirted. “I have some good news, Frannie. You’ll want to hear this.” He took her hand and led her to the house. They sat together at the dining room table. Charlie smiled ear to ear. He couldn’t remember being this happy since their wedding, and he couldn’t wait to tell her.

“Goodness, Charlie, what is it?” Fran sat with her hands folded on the table, a part of her a little afraid. 

“Well, I had my meeting about retirement today, and as we talked about, I signed on for another four years. But I got the most remarkable news, darling.” 

“Well, what are you waiting for, Charlie? Tell me!” His excitement was contagious.

“Lorne and I were talking, and I mentioned our procedure we’ve been saving for all these years. I guess my insurance covers a part of it, honey. We can do it now. We have enough.” 

Fran shook her head. “Wait, the procedure? What changed?” 

“Twenty years ago, it was new technology, but honey, it’s not new anymore. Insurance will cover eighty percent of the cost. I verified everything with the office manager at the fertility practice. Dr. Prisco might not do the procedure. She is retiring herself soon, so another doctor in her practice will take care of you. Do you know what this means, Frannie?” 

“Our baby,” she said and smiled. 

“We will have enough to try several times if we need to. Honey, we will have our baby.” Charlie held her tight to him and kissed her. “Finally,” he said, “I can give you what your heart desires most.”


Two weeks later, Fran and Charlie drove to the doctor’s office for a new patient appointment, armed with the hope of good news and the intention to schedule their procedure. They sat in the waiting room holding hands, waiting for the receptionist to call their name. 

“I can’t believe we are here,” Fran said. “Maybe we’ll get some good news today.” 

“I have been in prayer since I found out about this, my love. Today is the day our lives change for the good.” Just as he lifted her hand to kiss it, the nurse called their names and led them back to the doctor’s office. To their surprise, Dr. Prisco sat behind her desk, still in practice, and very interested in the outcome of their case. 

“Mr. and Mrs. Farmer,” she greeted them. “It sure has been a long time.” She extended her hand to both of them and motioned for them to sit. “I understand you are ready to proceed with your in vitro procedure, is that correct?” 

Charlie looked at Fran, and together they nodded. “That’s right,” Charlie answered. “My insurance will cover the procedure at eighty percent. Had we known this, we could have tried it earlier.” 

“Earlier might have been better. Since this is what we’re working with, I’m do my best to ensure you have a baby. We’ll do some prep work, then discuss IVF. Charlie, you will need to show up on the morning of her procedure. And Fran, I’ll do a thorough exam and bloodwork to make sure it looks good.”  

Fran agreed, and they scheduled appointments to begin the process. Dr. Prisco ordered fertility medications, prenatal vitamins, and a full blood panel for Fran. Charlie provided a new sample to ensure success. Dr. Prisco knew they had limited funds, so efficiency was crucial.

After their appointment, Charlie took Fran for supper at the bistro downtown to celebrate. He felt good, and it showed. His smile was contagious. “What’s on your mind, Charlie?” she asked him as they sipped on a glass of wine together.

“After all this time, we’re moving forward with our dreams. Do you know that in as little as three months, we could expect our miracle baby, Fran?” He kissed her hand. 

“If I’m still healthy enough, Charlie. I’m not a young girl anymore. I want to be happy, but I’m afraid to hope.” 

“He hasn’t disappointed us yet, Frannie. We need to keep praying. And someday soon, he will answer our most desired prayer. So, what is this procedure?”

“Well, from what I remember, I’ll take drugs that help with my fertility, and when they’re ready, they harvest about ten eggs. Then they fertilize the best of them using the special technique, and about a week afterward, I have a couple of them transferred. Then we pray at least one of them turns into a pregnancy.”

Charlie felt guilty. “Wow, my job will be much easier. I guess we need to pray my little swimmers are still good.” Fran almost spat the mouthful of wine she had just sipped and laughed. 

“Swimmers?” 

Charlie chuckled. “Yes. Swimmers.”

“Well, that paints a funny image in my head,” she continued to laugh. “I’ve never heard that term before.” 

“Well, in all honesty, you’ve never been a teenage boy before either. Guys have all kinds of names for that stuff. That was the least offensive of the ones I can remember.” 

After the bistro, Charlie drove them home. He gathered the horses and stabled them for the evening while Fran went upstairs to wait for him. She wore the outfit her maid of honor gave her for their wedding night, the outfit that Charlie loved, and she laid there in quiet expectation for him to return. 

Fran heard his footsteps ascend the staircase, and when he reached the top step and opened the bedroom door, he saw her. She was as lovely to him as she was on their wedding night. He went to her, overwhelmed by her beauty.

“You look amazing, honey.” 

“Well, I know you love this, and tonight is a special night.” 

“Special, you say?” he growled. 

“Mmhmm. Come. Love me, Charlie.” 

“You bet I will.”


Four months later

An ultrasound was all that stood between Fran and a baby. It would determine if the embryo transfer procedure four weeks prior resulted in a pregnancy. Charlie paced the floor as they waited for the sonographer. Fran was ready to go. 

“What’s taking the doctor so long?” he asked. “Don’t they know how nerve-racking this is?” 

Fran chuckled. “Charlie, relax. All of our tests came back good. I’ve had some symptoms, and that’s a good sign, love.”

He took a seat next to her and held her hand. “I don’t know how you’re so calm. I’m a mess.” 

“It’s just intuition, love. I have a positive feeling about this ultrasound.” She rubbed his fingers between hers and smiled. “Are you excited, Charlie?” 

Her calm demeanor put him at ease, and he squeezed her hand. “I am, baby.”

Ten minutes later, the technician entered the room with a smile. “My name is Magda, and I’m going to do your ultrasound today. I understand you had in vitro four weeks ago, is that correct?”

Fran nodded. “We’ve waited twenty years for this.” All their saving, all their sacrifice came down to this one moment.

“Well!” Magda exclaimed. “Let’s look for your little one.” She squeezed a glob of warm gel on Fran’s tummy and placed the wand on top of it. She referenced the doctor’s notes and verified them. “You had three embryos implanted, correct?” Fran nodded and smiled. Magda continued the exam, and after a few minutes, spoke. “Well, I have what I need here. The doctor will be in soon.” She stood and left. 

Charlie looked at Fran, his nervousness returned. “I don’t have a good feeling about this anymore, baby.” 

Fran eked out a smile. She had the same feeling. “Well, let’s see what the doctor says when she comes in.” 

Moments later, Dr. Prisco walked into the exam room, Fran’s chart in her hands. “Well, I have the results of your ultrasound.” She took a breath. “Magda wasn’t able to detect an implanted embryo. But don’t despair. Your preliminary blood tests showed an increase in hormones, so we might need to do a more invasive test to see it. Do you mind, Fran?” 

Fran shook her head. “No, by all means. We need to know. It is such an emotional issue for both of us.” 

“I understand. I’ll send Magda back in for the other test.” She took Fran’s hand and patted it. “Have faith.” 

Ten minutes later, Magda returned and performed the new ultrasound test, and when she had gathered her information, she told Fran she could get dressed and left the room.

“I feel no better about this.” Charlie wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans. 

Fran slipped back into her jeans and shirt and sat on the exam table. “I hope we have enough for another attempt.” Her sniffles of sorrow broke Charlie’s heart. “We knew this was a long shot. I’m too old.” 

He walked to her, held her close to him, and let her weep in his arms. “Baby, I’m so sorry. It is my fault.” 

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Fran was just about to speak when Dr. Prisco entered the exam room with Fran’s chart in her hands. “What’s going on here? Didn’t Magda tell you her findings?”

Fran shook her head. “She said nothing, except that I could get dressed. We figured she’d mention it if there was good news.” 

“I’m so sorry,” Dr. Prisco said. “She should have shown you this.” The doctor handed the image to Fran and Charlie to observe. “This is what we wanted to see.” The doctor pointed to a tiny blip on the image. “This is your baby, Fran, and it’s four and a half weeks’ gestation. There was only one.” 

“Wait,” she said, stunned. “My baby? I’m pregnant?”

The doctor nodded. “Congratulations, Fran, and Charlie. I’m so happy this came to pass before I retired.”

Tears filled Fran’s eyes, and she cried. “Charlie! We’re pregnant!” He kissed her and embraced her. “We’re pregnant.”

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“Finally…” he said, his voice faded in tears. 

“Make an appointment with Dr. Engle before you leave. She will want to see you as soon as possible. Again, congratulations.” Dr. Prisco nodded and left the exam room.


It had been five weeks since Fran and Charlie had seen Dr. Prisco and her first appointment with Dr. Engle was here. He sat with a bucket in his hands while they waited.

“You don’t look so good, love,” he said. 

Fran held her belly, nauseated beyond words. “I can’t even drink ginger tea. The smell of it makes me gag.” She opened a peppermint candy and handed the wrapper to Charlie. “I can’t exist on peppermints. Maybe the doctor will suggest something else.” 

He squeezed her hand. “I’m sure she will, honey. In the meantime, I have a bucket.” 

She tried to chuckle, but it just made her feel ill. “Keep it handy.” 

Her friend, Dr. Starla Engle, entered the room a few minutes later with a smile on her face. “Fran, it’s so good to see you again. Charlie, how have you been?” She shook hands with both of them. 

“Better than last time, if having morning sickness makes me better.” 

Dr. Engle laughed. “I understand. Your blood work so far looks perfect. The hormone levels are on target; your other numbers look great. Other than nausea, how are you feeling, Fran?” 

“Not bad,” she replied. “According to the pregnancy book I’ve been reading, all my symptoms are normal.” A wave of nausea struck her, and she nearly vomited, but the feeling passed. “I could do without this morning sickness, however.” 

“Well, the nausea is a good sign. Another three to four weeks of feeling ill, and you’re into your second trimester already.” The doctor referenced Fran’s chart. “According to this, you’re ten weeks. I’ll do an ultrasound during your next appointment.”

Fran nodded. They reached the point where their first pregnancy had ended, and the ultrasound made her a little uneasy. “Are we past the point of danger for this baby?” Fran asked.

“I’d say we’re approaching that point. But remember, Fran, the embryo was viable when we transferred it. We’re not dealing with similar circumstances this time. I’m expecting you to sail right through this pregnancy with few problems.” The doctor observed Charlie with the purge bucket in his hand and smiled. “How often are you vomiting, Fran?” 

“Once or twice in the morning. The ginger tea doesn’t even smell good, and I can only tolerate mint. Crackers help, so do bananas. But the prenatal vitamins make me queasy.” Even talking about it made her feel ill.

“Try taking the vitamins after a small meal, say dinner time. Try eating smaller meals and stay away from greasy or spicy things.” The doctor smiled at Fran. “Your weight gain is minimal for now, but I will monitor that once we approach the twelve-week mark, so during your next appointment. Questions for me?” 

Charlie shook his head and so did Fran. “No, I think you’ve answered everything I had to ask. The main issue has been the morning sickness.” 

“The best I can tell you on the nausea is to avoid known triggers and eat foods you know are safe, meaning they don’t cause increased nausea. Do you need a refill on your vitamins?” Fran shook her head as she fought another wave of queasiness. “We’ll follow up in three weeks.” 

“I would take you for lunch, sweetheart, but you don’t look like you’d keep anything down.” Charlie caressed her cheek. “Why don’t we go home and I’ll spoil you rotten?” 

Fran smiled. “Make sure you bring the bucket.” 

*****

Charlie cooked a small, simple supper of grilled cheese and soup while Fran rested in his recliner. She dozed on and off since her appointment earlier in the afternoon, so when the meal was ready he woke her. 

“Baby? Are you hungry?” He kissed her forehead.

Fran groaned when she opened her eyes. “I should try to eat. Is that grilled cheese I smell?” 

“It is. Did you want something else?” 

“No, it’s okay, Charlie. Thank you for cooking. Maybe I’ll only have to endure morning sickness for another three weeks. I’m tired of it.” 

“Oh, sweetie, I know. You’re such a trooper.” He reached to touch her belly and stroked it. “I’m sorry the baby is giving you a hard time.”

Fran smiled. “It can give me all the hard time it wants. I’ve waited so long for this moment, even though I’m sick I’m enjoying every bit.” Her hand touched his, and their fingers intertwined.

“You’re glowing, my sweet Frannie. How I love you.” 

“I love you, Charlie.” They kissed before he held his hand to her. 

“Need some help up, love? Come, eat before it gets cold.” He guided her to the dining table, and they sat together. Charlie took her hand before they ate and he prayed and gave thanks, both of them grateful for their blessings.


Three weeks later…

It was the first morning Fran had awakened in two months that she didn’t feel sick. Charlie had already gone to work for the morning, and she laid in bed and listened to the sounds of the farm outside her window. Marne was in the pasture, her soft whinnies called to her yearling foal. Sometimes, early in the morning, Fran would watch the two horses play in the field. It amazed her how much Sweetie resembled Marne, and she would miss the filly when she left for training.

She stumbled to the bathroom and splashed fresh water on her face. Her hand went to her belly and stroked it. It was a habit to greet the baby with a soft word and a gentle touch. She couldn’t wait to feel it kick, to feel it move around. She stood sideways and admired her growing belly in the mirror. “Let’s go get some breakfast, little one,” she said. 

She had left the box of tea open from the previous evening, so she folded the wax package that surrounded the bags and closed the box. The aroma of a cold cup of ginger tea awakened her nose, but she poured it out and made a face. Her stomach growled in hunger. “I’m hurrying,” she chuckled and patted the baby once more for good measure. 

After a warm breakfast of oatmeal and milk, she walked to the upstairs bedroom to shower. Charlie would pick her up in two hours for her twelve-week checkup, and she needed to be ready for him. Though she would never admit it to him, Fran was nervous about the ultrasound. She was further along now than when she miscarried. Dr. Engle assured her the circumstances were different now, but it wasn’t enough. Not yet, anyway.

She was searching for a suitable outfit when she heard Charlie’s voice. “Are you ready, love?” 

“I’ll be down in a minute, Charlie.” She shimmied the last pair of jeans in her dresser off her legs and reached for her sweatpants. “I guess I’m too fat for my jeans!” she said to herself.

“Come on, honey,” he yelled to her. “We’ll be late.” 

She walked to the steps and held to the railing. “Nothing fits me.” Fran giggled like a schoolgirl. “I never thought I’d be so happy to gain weight!”

He held his hand to her, and she took it. “You look beautiful to me, darling, no matter what.” He kissed her cheek when she got close to him. 

“I’m ready,” she announced. “Let’s go.” 

They drove together in Charlie’s pickup and chatted on the way. They walked into the office together. When Charlie took her hand, he felt her tremble. 

“Are you okay, Frannie?” he asked. 

“Just a little nervous. This is it, Charlie. Either it’s a baby or it’s not.” She squeezed his hand just a little tighter. 

“But sweetie, you’re growing. You’ve been having all the signs and symptoms, haven’t you?” 

She nodded. “But this is when we lost our last baby.”

“The doctor said our circumstances are different now.” He stroked her cheek. “I understand the fear, but I think we’re good, love.” 

In the exam room, the doctor did a quick exam and discussed blood tests. “Fran, everything looks perfect. How are you feeling?” 

“I woke up feeling good today. No vomiting, just a little queasy after breakfast, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I am too fat for my jeans.” Fran grinned. “I never thought I’d be happy about gaining weight.” 

“Your weight gain is healthy, only about five pounds so far. You’ve always been thin, so I don’t imagine you’ll gain very much.” Dr. Engle jotted something into the chart. “Depending on how the baby sits, we could determine the sex today. Do you want to know?” 

They hadn’t discussed the possibility, so they looked at each other. Charlie nodded and cocked his head. “What do you think, love?” 

Fran smiled. “I think I want to know.” 

Dr. Engle nodded. “I will let Katie know, then.” 

Ten minutes later, the sonographer entered the room, and she recognized them. “Hi!” she greeted them. “I’m Katie, and I remember you two. We have a nice, healthy baby, so let’s look.” Charlie held her hand, and they both watched the monitor as Katie did the exam. 

She pointed at a blip on the screen and switched on the Doppler. “This is your baby,” Katie explained. “The sound you hear is the heartbeat, and it’s steady and strong.” She took some measurements and tried different angles, but the position prevented the doctor from determining its sex this time. “Everything looks wonderful, Fran. You two deserve a healthy baby.” She gathered her notes and patted Fran on the shoulder. “Congratulations!”

Minutes later, Dr. Engle returned with the results of the ultrasound exam. “Your baby is on target for twelve weeks gestation as far as development and growth. The heartbeat is strong, and we see evidence of a healthy baby. I know this is welcome news. I saw the fear on your face the moment I walked in. Please relax and know you’re on schedule, Fran.” 

She breathed a sigh of relief and fought the tears that came with it. “I feel so much better, thank you!”

“I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, and we’ll schedule your twenty-week ultrasound today. You’re going to be okay, Fran.” Dr. Engle smiled at her friend. “I promise.” 

Charlie took her hand, and together, they left the office. “What’s on your mind, love?” he asked her.

“It’s real, Charlie. Everything is real, and it’s going to happen.” Her smile was bright. “Now, I hope I have enough energy for a toddler.” Her hands rested on her belly. “I’m the happiest woman in the world, Charlie. Thank you.” 

“No one deserved this more than you, Frannie. You’ve waited for so long. You could have given up on me years ago. No one would have blamed you. But I’m so thankful you didn’t. The baby is my legacy, too. The chance to pass the Farmer name along to a son. I’m the only one who can.” He opened the truck door for her, and she climbed in.

“I would have never left you. You are my mate for life, Charlie. The vows we took, I meant them.”

Charlie took her hand and kissed it. “I couldn’t love you more, darling.”

*****

Later that evening, while they laid in bed, Charlie held her hand in his and played with her wedding ring. “Ten years old.” It came from nowhere.

“What’s ten years old, love?” 

“If I died in the war zone, our baby would be ten years old.” 

She sat up and looked at him like he was crazy. “What are you talking about, Charlie?” 

“Honey, I never mentioned it, because I never had to. I’m surprised Dr. Prisco never said so. But before I went overseas, I had my swimmers frozen for you to use in case I didn’t come home. It was important to me—” 

A sob choked her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought if I had, it would have been admitting I wasn’t coming home. I had it in my instructions with the life insurance that my lawyer disclose it to you if I had died. It would have been my last gift to you, Frannie. The baby you long desired. My baby.”

“How did you get the money? I noticed no money missing from our account.” 

“They withheld my first two months’ salary because it was an advance on my pay. They shouldn’t have withheld my salary as long as they did. That misunderstanding almost cost you everything.” He wiped a tear from his eyes. “For years, Frannie, I thought you would have done better if I had died. You would have had a child. You would have been living in comfort instead of struggling. Your life would have been easier—”

“Charlie, no!” she cried, on the verge of anger. “It never would have been better without you. I’m not even sure I would have done the procedure without you.” Her shoulders heaved in grief. “I don’t want to hear you talk this way to me again! It would have destroyed me…” She couldn’t speak another word. Her body shook in sobs. 

He sat up next to her and embraced her. “I’m so sorry, Frannie. Now that we’re expecting our baby, I guess I’ve been more reflective. I should have disclosed it sooner than this.” 

She shook her head. “I don’t care that you said nothing about it. But I can’t tell you how it hurts me to hear you say you wish you’d died overseas, or that I would be better off without you. I sat here and prayed for you to come home, safe and alive!” Her cries broke his heart. “Charlie, I don’t want to fight.”

“Oh honey, I don’t either. And I am so sorry I’ve hurt you.” He gave her a tender kiss. “We have so much to be thankful for, and I’m grateful for your love, Frannie. I’m grateful for your prayers and your faithfulness. I’m sorry.” He wiped the tears from her face and held her close to him. “I’m sorry.” 

“Please hold me,” she wept. “I need you close to me for the rest of my life.”

He held her to him and kissed her. “I love you, honey. Please don’t cry anymore.” 

“I love you, Charlie.”

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Up Next: Chapter Thirteen, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Sims Modeli
Warm Hugs by Sea

Skylar’s Sanctuary
Zutara

*****

Custom Content:

Jamee’s Sims 3
Hospital for Storytelling by Jamee

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

G1 Chapter Eleven – The Homecoming

The snow fell outside the window of the small farmhouse. They sat, cups of coffee in their hands, and enjoyed the peaceful morning. Charlie had been home from the war zone for a day, but he was already intent on spoiling his wife. 

“I’m going to care for the animals soon, love,” he said, mesmerized by the flames in the fireplace. He reached for her hand and touched it, and she wrapped her fingers around his. 

“Charlie, you just got home,” she tried to protest. “Take a day off.” 

“I’ve had almost a month off, Frannie. I have no order to report to the base, so you’re stuck with me.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. “Besides, I told you when I got home that I’d spoil you to make up for all the time I missed.” 

Fran blushed. “Chores are not what I thought you meant.” 

“Oh, don’t worry, there is plenty of that coming your way, too. Right now, being home is pure bliss. I missed the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of home. The last night, I didn’t think I’d come home. I’ll always believe it was your prayers that saved me, Frannie.”

“I wasn’t the only one praying for you back here, Charlie. Caleb and Sunny, our friends at the market, your parents—“

Charlie groaned at the mention of them. “That reminds me, I have a bone to pick with them.” 

She scowled at him. “Don’t be too angry with them, Charlie. They’ve gotten old since you left. Your dad looks sickly.” 

“They broke the biggest promise they’ve ever made to me, Frannie. How can I trust them again?” 

“All I’m saying is you’ll notice it when you see them.” Maybe it was his deployment that aged George and Dolly Farmer. Perhaps they were getting older and were slowing down. Whatever the reason, their condition concerned Fran.

“Honey, this torments me. What if I would have died? I wouldn’t have been able to correct it. They swore to me they’d care for you.”

“Charlie,” she squeezed his hand, “I’m not their daughter. They have no obligation to me.” 

“You’re their daughter-in-law, the wife of their only son. You should mean more to them than how they’ve treated you, Frannie.” He huffed in frustration and dreaded the conversation he’d have with them. 

“You’re making too much of this. I’m fine.” 

“Because Sunny and Caleb took care of you, not my folks. I’m sorry, Frannie, they disappointed me, and I’m not sure I can forgive them for it.” 

She took his hand and stared into his eyes. “Be careful, Charlie. Don’t say things you can’t take back, things you’ll regret. Once the words spill from your mouth, they can’t go back in.”

He reached to stroke her cheek. “When did you get to be so wise, my love?” 

“I’ve been reading. I’ve learned a lot.” She stood to put her boots on. “I need to feed Marne and muck her stall. Go rest, Charlie.”

He wanted to take the burden from her, but he underestimated the pain in his shoulder. The cold weather made it ache, and all he wanted was to lie down. “Okay, love. I’ll be upstairs.”

Fran expected much more resistance than he gave, and it troubled her. “Are you okay, Charlie?”

“I’m tired, honey. It’s been a terrible year.” He got up from his chair and walked to her. He took her into his arms and held her. “I’m thankful to be home.” 

They broke their embrace, and she touched his face. “I love you,” she whispered. “When I finish with Marne, I’ll meet you upstairs. I want to be close to you.” 

His stare was empty as he looked past her. “I’ll be waiting.” 

Fran and Charlie napped together when she returned from the yard until a phone call awakened them. He looked at the display and rejected it. Fran yawned and looked at him, her eyes heavy with sleep. “Who was it, Charlie?” 

“Ma,” he said. “I don’t feel like dealing with her right now.” 

“What if she needs you? You shouldn’t ignore them.” 

“She has Pa if she needs anything.” He set the phone back on the nightstand.

“Charlie, please don’t neglect her. I’m telling you, your dad isn’t well.” 

“Fran, please drop it. I don’t want to deal with her on the phone.” 

“But Charlie—” 

“I SAID NO!” he shouted at her. He got up and fled the room. Fran heard his heavy footsteps as they went down the stairs, and her eyes filled with tears. 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered into the pillow, and she wept until she fell asleep.

*****

Charlie put his boots on and grabbed his winter coat from the closet. With his scarf wrapped around his face and a warm cap on his head, he hustled toward his parents’ house down the street. He walked up the front path and rapped on the door. Dolly answered the door, a smile on her face when she saw her son. But her happiness was short-lived when he marched into the house.

“No hug for your Ma?” she asked him.

“Why should I?” he raised his voice. “You did NOTHING to help me while I was away. Frannie was starving, and you did nothing!”

George heard the shouting and walked from the bedroom. The scene upset him. No one disrespected his wife the way Charlie had done, and he intended to stop it. “Son, who do you think you’re talking to?” George stood in the doorway, his arms crossed, and he tapped his foot in anger.

“Charles, Frannie never told us she was in trouble. How are we supposed to know if—”

“You’re supposed to check on her like I asked you to!” Charlie was livid. “You know she’s too proud to ask anyone for help!”

Dolly shook her head. “Pride goes before a fall, Charles.” 

“Oh, don’t EVEN!” he shouted. “Don’t you quote that to me! She was all alone. Without me, she would have nothing!”

George had heard enough. “Charles Raymond! You will not speak to your mother with disrespect. Am I clear?” 

Charlie backed up and pointed at his father. “You. You’re no better! What, don’t you like Frannie? What caused you to treat her this way?” 

“I tried to fix that junk heap you left,” George stated.

“Is that all you did for her? You looked at my truck. Gee, thanks. That makes everything better.” The sarcasm was biting and uncharacteristic for Charlie.

“I’m warning you, son. You’re not too old for a whipping if you need it,” George threatened him. 

Dolly frowned at her husband. “No one is whipping anyone. Charles, take a seat. And George, you’re not innocent, either. Sit down! We’re talking this over!” She stood, hands on her hips, two seconds away from a meltdown. 

Charlie sat, though he didn’t wish to. He couldn’t look at either of them. “What did Fran do to you? Has she disrespected you or been mean to you? She spent her thirtieth birthday alone after you called and told her you’d take her for dinner. What happened?” 

“Charles, Fran is a lovely girl,” Dolly began. “I mean, she’s a woman of strong faith, from a proper family, well-mannered. But couldn’t you have picked someone more fertile? We aren’t getting any younger, you know. We’d like grandchildren from our only son.” 

Charlie shook his head. “You think you know all about us, don’t you?” It was another reminder he had failed Fran. “Do you want to know why we haven’t been able to conceive, Ma?”

“It can’t be on our side, Charles,” Dolly said. “Our family is healthy—“

“It’s me, Ma. I’m the reason we can’t have children. You resent Frannie for nothing!” Charlie folded his hands and hung his head. “During the plague in Dragon Valley, the treatments I received damaged me.”

“Oh, Charles,” she cried. “I didn’t know!” 

“Yeah, well, now you do. Does it change anything? You should have told me you felt this way before I relied on you.” 

“We want to like her, Charl. She is such a private person,” George interjected. “If she was friendlier—”

Charlie interrupted his father. “She is plenty friendly. You know, maybe Fran sensed you two feel this way about her. We argued about you, and she must have known how you feel about her, but she took your side, anyway! And I yelled at her before I left the house.” He rubbed his temples with his thumbs. “What a fool I am.” He stood and took his hat from the couch where he sat. “We will discuss this, but I need to get home and apologize to her and pray she forgives me.” He walked to the door and opened it. “Tomorrow. We will sit down and work through it together. And you will tell her the reason you don’t like her. If you don’t, I swear I will.”

“Charles…” Dolly tried to say, but Charlie walked outside and slammed the door behind him.

He hurried down the quiet, icy street back home to Fran. Charlie removed his boots and set them by the hearth to dry. He tiptoed into the bedroom and peeked into the door. Fran was asleep, curled into a fetal position, her arms wrapped around his pillow as she had done most nights while he was away. Charlie knew he had hurt her, and that he was in the dog house. It was uncharted territory for him. He’d never caused her pain on purpose, so he didn’t know how she would react. 

He sat on the bed with her and touched her cheek. She opened her eyes, and they welled with tears. “I’m sorry—” she began.

“No, honey. You have no reason to be sorry. I’m in the wrong, and I’m so sorry I hurt you, Frannie. I love you, and I want things to be good between us.” 

She sniffled and wiped tears from her eyes. “Why did you yell at me? I’ve never heard you raise your voice to me.” She sat up and looked at him. “You hurt me.” 

He reached for her to hold her, and she snuggled into his arms. “Frannie, I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to face my parents for a few reasons. But I paid them a visit when I left here. You’re right about my pa. He doesn’t look well, but he would have given me a whipping despite it.” He recalled his conversation with his folks, and he clamped his teeth together. “I resolved nothing with them. We need to go sit and work it out together.” 

“What happened?” 

“I learned some things I’d rather not know, but it answered the questions I had. I wish I would have known before I asked the favor of them.” 

“They don’t like me, do they?” Fran asked. 

Her question brought the tears he’d been fighting since he left his folks’ house, and he shook his head. “No, love, they don’t.” 

“I’ve suspected it, but I hoped things would be better in time. That I’d be worthy of you in their eyes.” She sighed. 

“That’s not it at all, my love. They have a wrong impression of you. But I’m afraid it might be difficult to overcome.” He kissed her forehead. “Sweetie, can you forgive me for yelling at you? I feel terrible, especially since I have missed you for so long. It’s not right—”

She put her finger to his lips and smiled. “Of course, I forgive you.” She caressed his cheek and looked into his eyes. “You know, the best part of a fight is making up.” 

He flashed her an impish grin. “Well then, let’s make up.”


The following day, Fran and Charlie walked hand in hand to his parents’ house. He was ready to confront them, though Fran was only there for support. Their pace was slow, and they were in no hurry, thankful for their time together. The snow had fallen at a steady pace since Charlie’s arrival back home, and the road where they lived was impassable by car or truck. A layer of ice beneath the snow made driving treacherous, and they were grateful the two homes were close together.

“Thank you for coming with me, honey,” Charlie said. “I know you don’t like this, but it concerns you, too.”

“I wish things were different, but I don’t think forcing them to like me will accomplish much.” Her boot hit a patch of ice, and she lost traction. Charlie tried to save her fall, but they both ended up on the ground in a drift of snow. Fran giggled like a child. “Are you okay, Charlie? I’m sorry.” 

He sat up and groaned. “I keep forgetting I’m just a few months from surgery on my shoulder.” 

“Let me help you up, love,” she said and stood to hold her hand to him. 

“I’m getting too old for this.” He groaned as he stood and brushed the snow from his clothing. “Thank you, sweetie.” He swept snow from her hair and stared into her eyes. 

“Anytime,” Fran replied. “Are you ready for this?”

Charlie shook his head. “No. But this conversation needs to happen.” They walked up the steps to the elder Farmer’s home, and Charlie knocked on the door.

Dolly answered it with a smile on her face. “Come in!” 

“Where’s Pa?” Charlie demanded. 

“He’s in the basement working on a project. I’ll call him upstairs.” Dolly disappeared for a moment. Charlie showed Fran to the couch and held her hand as she sat down. He took his place next to her. 

Minutes later, the four of them sat together, the silence among them awkward. Finally, Charlie spoke. “I think you two owe Frannie an explanation.” She reached for his hand, and he squeezed it.

“Charles, don’t do this,” Dolly began. 

“Why shouldn’t I, Ma? Frannie deserves to know why you don’t like her.” He looked at his mother and frowned. “Tell her. Tell her why you don’t like her.” 

“Charl,” George spoke. “Don’t press it, son.” 

“Last chance before I spill your secret,” Charlie warned them. “Think long and hard about whether it’s worth losing your only son.” 

Fran’s eyes filled with tears. “It’s not that important, Charlie. It’s okay.” 

“Of course it’s important, my love.” He caressed her cheek and wiped tears from her face. Charlie was restless and waited for them to speak up, but neither did. 

“I would like to go home,” she whispered. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the real reason. 

Charlie stood and took her hand. “This still isn’t over, Ma, Pa.” He led her to the front door when George spoke up.

“Charl, wait. You are right. It’s not fair to Fran. Let’s sit down and talk .” George scooted next to Dolly and took her hand. “Fran, we have misunderstood something about you.” Dolly looked at him and shook her head, but he nodded. “Sweetheart, we misjudged you. In our desire for grandchildren, we believed that the problem was—”

Fran’s breath hitched, and her heart broke. “My fault? You think I haven’t given you grandchildren on purpose?” The hurt on her face was palpable. “Charlie? Is this true?” Charlie nodded his head. And then something happened Charlie never saw coming: Fran got angry. “First, I don’t see how our ability or inability to have children is your business! It is a personal and emotional issue for both Charlie and me, and your nosy interference has no place!”

“Fran—” Dolly began, but Fran shut her down.

“No! You’re going to listen to me! I have noticed your chilly attitude for a few years now. I felt guilty that I wasn’t good enough for Charlie. And today, I found out the reason.” She shook her head with disgust. “Before my mama died, she thought of Charlie as her own—the son she and my daddy never had. It hurts me to think you don’t feel the same about me. I’ve always been told I’m not strong enough. I’m not faithful enough. I’m not friendly enough. I’m not good enough. But I’m always enough for Charlie. I don’t need to be suitable for you! This conversation is over!” When Fran finished speaking her mind, she stood. “I want to go home, Charlie.” She shook with emotion and tried not to cry. 

“Are you happy?!” Charlie snarled at his parents. “Come on, love.” He took Fran’s hand and led her from the house. It upset both of them, and he regretted his role in Fran’s distress.

They weren’t outside the door for ten seconds when Fran cried. She clung to Charlie as she sobbed. “I’m sorry I disrespected your parents, Charlie. I should go apologize—”

“No, honey. My folks had it coming, and it was glorious. You have no reason to be sorry. They are the ones who owe you an apology. I don’t think it will happen. They could surprise me, but I doubt it.” He kissed her cheek and took her hand. “Let’s just go home, my love.” 

They strolled back to the house. Charlie whispered words of comfort and love to Fran as they walked. “Please don’t cry anymore, love. They aren’t worth the pain they’ve brought.” 

“I just can’t believe it, Charlie. Do they know the reason?” 

He nodded. “They do. It has changed nothing.”

“It breaks my heart. My mama loved you as her own. I guess what the book says is true. A mother-in-law will be against her daughter-in-law.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “It’s okay, though. As long as I am sufficient for you, Charlie, I will be content.” 

“You know you are, my love. Always.” They reached their front gate, and he opened it for her to pass through it. “Let’s go snuggle, my love. I need you so much.” 

“I thought you would never ask, Charlie. I love you.”


A month later

After the devastating attack overseas, the new commanding officer summoned Charlie to the base. It was the first time Charlie had been in his uniform since he had returned home a month prior. He wiped his hands on his pants and knocked on the door. “Come in, Farmer,” came the reply.

Charlie entered the office of his late superior officer. Though he knew his name, he had never met him. “Captain Charles Farmer,” he announced and stood at attention.

“At ease, Captain,” Major Lorne Turek said. “Take a seat.” He motioned for Charlie to sit, which he did. “Captain, I have the approval to offer you a promotion and an increase in rank. But it comes with a transfer to Twinbrook. I know what a promotion like this could mean for your career.”

There was much to consider. The obstacle was the farm and Marne. He doubted he could get Fran to move, and he wasn’t willing to be separated from her again. “Can I get back to you, Major? I am not a single man. My wife is pretty rooted here.”

“You can, but don’t procrastinate. Rebuilding this outpost will take precious years. Give it some thought and get back to me, Captain.” 

Charlie saluted him. “Thank you, sir.” 

On his drive home, Charlie had much to consider. The promotion and rank increase was the answer to many prayers. But Fran lived in the house in which she grew up, and took over her family’s livelihood, the farm, her legacy. Moving to Twinbrook would mean giving Marne away, and he would never ask her to do it. The mare was the last gift from her mama.

He opened the front door, and Fran called him from the kitchen. “Is that you, Charlie?” 

He sighed. “Yes, love. It’s me.” 

She walked from the kitchen, her apron around her waist, and a towel in her hands. “What did they want?”

He shook his head. “It was nothing, baby. They wanted to know if I needed anything from a wellness standpoint. I told them I’m fine.” 

“Couldn’t they have done that on the phone?” She sat at the dining table, pulled out a chair, and patted the seat for him. “I feel it’s more than just that.” 

Boy, did he hate lying to her. “No, sweetie. That’s all it was.” He looked into her eyes. “I’ll be fine as long as you are with me.” 

“You know I will be.” She caressed his cheek. “I’m cutting vegetables for supper. Would you like to help?”

He smiled. “Of course.” 

After supper, Charlie cleaned Marne’s stall and fed her while Fran cleaned the kitchen. When they were both finished, they met upstairs in their bedroom. Charlie laid down, his undershirt still on his body. They cuddled together, Fran’s head on his chest, and she listened to the sound of his heartbeat. She snuggled closer and kissed him, and he wrapped his arms around her—he stroked her arm. 

“What are you doing, my love?” Charlie cooed. 

“I want to be close to you.” She reached her fingers under his shirt to touch him. “Why do you wear a shirt? It’s awkward.” 

Charlie sat up and put his feet on the floor. “I don’t want you to see it, Frannie.” 

She scooted closer to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “See what?” 

“My shoulder.” 

“It’s just a gunshot wound,” she said, but he pulled away from her. 

“No, it’s not. It wasn’t just a bullet from a standard gun that hit me. It was a shot from a high-powered rifle. The scar’s not pretty, you know.” 

“Are you afraid I won’t love you? That it will disgust me?” She kissed his arm. 

Charlie shook his head. “I want to shield you from the horror of war, Frannie. It’s bad enough that I have to see it, the painful reminder that you almost lost me. Another way I failed you.” 

Fran got up and sat next to him on the bed. She looked into his eyes. “I want you to hear me, Charlie. You have never failed me or disappointed me. And I don’t care how your body looks. Your scars make you who you are.” She caressed his cheek. “I love you, no matter what.” 

Charlie pondered her words, took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Please be careful, love. It’s still tender.” He reached for the bottom of his shirt and pulled it from his body. The scar was still red in places, pink in others, and it looked painful. Fran saw it and gasped, her eyes filled with tears. She traced the border of the wound, careful not to cause him pain. 

“This went all the way through?” she asked. He nodded his head and then watched her face as she examined his shoulder. “How long before it’s healed?” 

He shook his head. “Eight months to a year,” he whispered. “The skin has healed, internal damage will heal slower. I should start physical therapy soon. I’m just waiting for the medical orders to come back from overseas. We lost everything in the outpost attack. Hospital records are forthcoming. I don’t know when.” 

She placed her hand on his shoulder and peeked around to his back. The injury was healing well, but it needed more time. She traced the scar with her fingers and kissed the surrounding skin. “Charlie, I had no idea it was this bad. You made it sound minor on the phone.” 

“I didn’t want you to worry, love. Others were worse than me. Many more never came home. In comparison, it was just a flesh wound.” He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes. “I knew I’d never be able to hide this from you forever, Frannie. I was just hoping it would look better when you saw it.”

“What can I do to help you, Charlie?” 

“Encourage me, love me, and always be here for me, Frannie. Hold me when I have nightmares. Tell me how much you love me. Remind me, when my faith is hanging by a thread, that you still pray for me.” He blinked back tears. “Comfort me when I don’t understand why a young boy took a bullet for me. Fran, that private sacrificed his life to save mine because you were here waiting for me. It should have been me, baby…” his voice faded to silent agony as he tried to make sense of the fateful day. “It should have been me,” his whisper was almost too soft to discern. Charlie’s body shook with sobs as he came to terms with a death he could have prevented, and the guilt that the wrong person had died. 

She held him to her and rocked him. “Shh, honey,” she whispered. “I’m here.” They laid down together, wrapped up in one another, and together, they wept.

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Up Next: Chapter Twelve, Generation One


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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 called her hours before their most dangerous mission yet, and he promised to call her when they’d finished their mission. A dream startled her awake, and she looked around the room wide-eyed. Her heart pounded. 

I wish he would call me, she thought. Since his injury, his missions were stressful for her. Fran looked at her watch. She knew she should sleep, but doubted it would come. The time was 4:52 am. 

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

The tea kettle whistled, and she turned the gas off. Fran plopped a chamomile bag into the boiling water, stirred honey into it, and went back to sit. In her warmest clothing, she was cold. It was too early to fetch more firewood. So she sat in Charlie’s recliner and rested, 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 enjoyable with fresh honey. She sipped on the hot beverage and sighed—another sleepless night. 

An hour later, the phone rang with Charlie’s ID on the phone’s display. Finally!

“Hello?”

“Hi, love,” his cheerful 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. 

“Haven’t you slept? You’re still awake?” 

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

“Well, 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.” This year would be their tenth anniversary. 

“No, baby, there’s no leave. I miss you.”

“It’s hard being here without you. It’s just Marne and me. 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 Fran’s 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. I need to insulate the sunroom door. The weather-stripping needs replacing.”

“Why don’t you do it, honey? There’s no good reason for you to be cold.”

She sighed. She knew Charlie would worry if he knew the truth, and she tried to keep it from him. “I’ve got little to trade 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. I spent every penny I made at the market.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “And then more on top.”

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

“I haven’t seen a dime since you left. Money is very tight. My firewood won’t last the winter.” 

“This is ridiculous!” Charlie was fuming. Being apart was tough. But that she was struggling was intolerable. “I will look into this for you.”

“It’s okay. We’ve made it through leaner winters than this,” Fran 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. 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. “Check with them. 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 tent when sirens sounded. Everyone scrambled for the bunkers on base. They had done the drills—this time it was the real thing. Airplanes flew overhead and fired on 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 others 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 protested, the young man opened the hatch. A bullet struck and killed him on the spot. 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 after she had hung up with Charlie, his number on the ID. 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 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 couldn’t draw a breath. “Charlie…” she whispered and gasped for air 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 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, but I don’t know how it will end…” Fran choked on a sob. “Pray for him, please.” 

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

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

Word spread around the town and 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 could 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. She returned with a good stack of firewood, but she wore a concerned look. “Is that all the wood you have?”

Fran nodded. “I’m struggling, Sun. I’m in denial to think I’m 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 her skin. 

“There’s no weather-stripping in the sunroom. 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 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 teakettle, Fran? I’m freezing.” 

“Not at all. The fire will roar soon, and we can sit by the fireplace. I need to wait for his call.” 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 rude, but I can’t 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 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. Charlie still clung to 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 private under Charlie’s direct command tapped him on the shoulder. 

“Captain? Are you okay, sir?”

He shook his head. “Not really.” He set the body down—before he got up, he took the tag from his neck chain. “I guess I have a phone call to make.”

He stopped and listened for any sign of life outside the bunker. When he cracked the door open to look, the scene above ground was utter devastation. The attack destroyed the outpost, and he doubted anyone who had stayed above had survived. Just sounds of nature—the occasional cicada and a wolf baying in the distance. 

He opened the hatch and peered out. His rifle in his hand, Charlie scanned the camp for hostiles. But nothing stirred. He opened the door and emerged from the bunker. The attack destroyed all living quarters—not one tent remained intact. Charlie walked to his CO’s tent to find him lying dead just feet from 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, 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 it worried her sick. He dialed her number on his cell phone. But the line was dead.

“Dammit!” he exclaimed. “The attack must have taken out communications.” It posed another problem. No communication meant they had no backup. They had no way to convey a message that the attack had compromised them. They would need to wait for a reconnaissance mission to find them. But 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. When Charlie heard it, he opened the door with his hands up. “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. Why didn’t you radio for help?” 

“They took our communications 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.”

The evacuation took minutes—the seven survivors were on their way to safety.


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

“Hello?” 

“Fran?” 

Fran sighed. “Yes. Hi Sunny.” 

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

“No, not a peep. I’ve resigned myself to being a widow, though I can’t guess why I have heard nothing from the Army.” Fran sniffled and wiped tears from her eyes.

“Well, maybe no news is good news. 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 Sunny seldom accepted 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 uncharacteristic 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, Sunny. I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” Fran dried her hair. She 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. Two cords of wood and weatherproofing materials sat in his truck. Another truck held a group of friends who would complete the work. Sunny arranged it all, and Caleb paid for it, the labor donated by the men who would finish the job. Everyone in town adored Fran. No one wanted to see her fail while Charlie served overseas. 

*****

A nightmare awakened Charlie, the events of the previous day replayed in his head. Sweat 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. The CO was in his tent, and Charlie approached the door to announce himself. 

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

“Sir, I’m curious. What happens to the survivors of my unit? Will a different unit take us?”

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

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

The CO shook his head. “It’s not my decision, Farmer. That comes from the top.” He walked to Charlie and held out his hand. “I know you’re holding the tag of the private who took a bullet for you. Let me make that call. Just 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. 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 they assigned to him 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 considered not re-signing when his time was up. 

Charlie 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. There is some news which I’ll tell you when we speak. I’m secure, and I will call you then. Oh, how I love you, my darling.

His time was free, so he laid down to rest, waiting to call his love. 

*****

Fran didn’t see the missed call on her phone until she and Sunny had left the diner after breakfast. 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 realized Caleb and the guys needed a little more time to finish, so she flooded the engine of her car. “I can’t get this thing to start,” she feigned frustration. “Let me call Caleb.”

“Hello?” he answered. 

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

“We need twenty more minutes,” 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 for Marne.” They walked back into the diner and waited for Caleb. 

Half an hour later, Caleb appeared in his old pickup 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 more than that, but he said he would call tonight.”

“Good to hear,” Caleb replied. “What did you do, Sunny?” he pretended to scold her. “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 ready. Are you ready?” 

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

“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 opened the front door, Sunny right behind her. 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?” 

“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. I stocked your fridge and pantry while you were upstairs. Fran, you broke my heart yesterday. I won’t let you fail when Charlie is serving this country overseas.” Fran cried, 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’m speechless!” Fran sniffled and hugged her again. “Thank you so much.” 

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

“I will.” 

 *****

It was later that afternoon when Fran’s cell phone rang again, this time with Charlie’s ID on the phone display. And it thrilled her 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 you talk to me again. Tell me you’re safe. I need to hear it.” 

“Oh, honey, I’m safe. But 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. No doubt, the enemy followed our caravan back to the outpost 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?” 

“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 doubt we’ll be home 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. “Oh, me too, love. I’ve seen more death than I ever care to see, on both sides.” 

“I have some good news too, Charlie. Sunny came and got me for breakfast this morning. Caleb and his friends did repairs on all the doors and windows. He brought me two cords of wood, and Sunny stocked the refrigerator and pantry.” Fran smiled. “We are so blessed, Charlie. We have 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 the Bradfords. Sunny was at the house in minutes. She saw how little firewood I had stocked and the chill in the house. She noticed I’ve lost weight.” Fran wiped a tear from her eyes. “She and Caleb amaze me. Their love—” 

“Why didn’t my mom go sit with you?” Charlie got angry. They let him down with Fran’s well-being. 

“She invited me to their house. 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 to watch over you, and from everything you’ve told me, they haven’t done what I’ve asked. They haven’t made 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 waited outside the municipal airport for Charlie’s plane to land. The flight was minutes away according to the information he had given her. He was the last in his unit to arrive home—the wait was excruciating for them. 

The snow was deep and continued to fall in Appaloosa Plains. Fran hoped the flight wouldn’t reroute to another airport. But the bright landing lights of the aircraft appeared 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—when it stopped, the door opened. She saw feet jump from the steps into snow almost calf-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, his posture at attention. “At ease!” came the command, and when he heard it, Charlie ran toward her.

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She stood, her face in her hands until she couldn’t wait for another second. She ran toward him, and when she reached him, he picked her up and spun her around.

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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 looked into her green eyes, the ones he missed, and kissed her. “Oh, honey, it’s so good to see 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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Kiddo’s Dreams
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*****

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Simming in Magnificent Style
Hercules Military Transport Airplane by Carlos

The Sims 3 Exchange
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G1 Chapter Nine – War Is Hell On The Homefront

Two months later

A stable hand offloaded Marne from the trailer that brought her from the equestrian center and led her 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 successful. 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 already was. 

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. “Charlie is 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 evening. Pitchfork by pitchfork, a layer of straw covered the floor. 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 on the farm, she didn’t need as much food, 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 cheerful 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. 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,” Fran 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 a mission in a dangerous situation, and all she could think about was her husband. Fran 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 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 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. 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 much if this girl is pregnant, so I thought I’d get one 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. Everyone has 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 the cows 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, patted her 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 supposed 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 Charlie mailed it nearly six weeks prior. She carried her treasure 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. My son tuned the engine 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 older 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 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 ask.” 

Fran was amazed. “I 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 package, and found a smaller box inside with a letter. She tugged the gift box 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. “The man’s grandson, Phillip, is deployed with you,” she said. Charlie recognized the boy’s name. “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 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. Oh, 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 walked upstairs, changed into her pajamas, and kneeled to pray like she did every night. Fran clasped her hands together and spoke quietly. When she 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 equipment from the hook it hung upon in the tack room. Fran gently slipped her halter off and buckled the leather strap around Marne’s head before she led her from the barn. 

Once she was sitting on Marne’s back, Fran 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 allowed the mare to graze while she rested. From there, they continued down toward the center. 

Oliver Farnam was outside the center with the stallion that mated with Marne. Fran admired the animal, chestnut-colored with a stark white blaze and stockings on his front two legs. He was a beautiful horse, 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. 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 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. Marne is 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 development 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 Fran 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 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 cranky 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 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 heavy eyes closed 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 dry 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 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 things were 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 number on Caller ID, 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. Now 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. 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 as though the whole world depends on it.” He wasn’t afraid. This moment 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, there was a phone. In her right, Fran 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 fortunate. The bullet 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 and didn’t say 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, I prayed for your safety, and I failed you.” 

“No, you didn’t, love. My injury 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, and 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


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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 swap 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 disappear 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 pickup. 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 Fran cleaned the kitchen, she 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. 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 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.” Fran could have never foreseen giving up her cows for horses. “But breeding Marne might be a lucrative investment. If the foal has good lines, we could sell our interest for an excellent price.” 

“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 difficult decision.” 

“I trust your instincts when it comes to the farm, love. It 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 forbearance, 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 immediately knew something was wrong. Dolly sat beside him and took his hand. Charlie sat across from them on the sofa.

“Ma, Pa…” his voice trailed off. “If you’ve been watching the news, you know about the conflict overseas. We are deploying 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. It 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 that 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 and stared out of the window, deep in thought. “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 the same as 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 final desire. 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. Fran never returned to finish the cheese from 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, Charlie and Fran 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 more than a 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 exam 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 to have 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 time 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 our 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 Charlie decided to do her chores one final time, 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 for them. He took his time with them, not sure if either Missy or Moo would still be on the farm in a year. In a way, Charlie 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. Fran 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 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 yielded 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. Charlie sat on the bed near her and reached to stroke her hair, and suddenly he was overwhelmed. Everything he would miss, the fact that she would be alone while he was gone distressed him, and he cried. 

His weeping woke Fran, and she began to cry again. “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 duffel bag, though some of the gear he would take was on base. So after she fell asleep, he spent time and organized uniforms, equipment, 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 because he 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 garden plot that Caleb had tilled the morning he learned of the deployment. Missy, Moo, and Marne were asleep in the barn. Crickets still sang in the field behind the barn, 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 bath 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 wore 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 baby, 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 duffel 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 our 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 pack, 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 high 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 passed away.” 

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. It 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 Fran doled some into a cup with a butter knife along with some crackers she brought for lunch and set the preserves out on 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. Then 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 well today. I can’t complain.” 

“I have good news, too,” 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 for 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. Charlie drove 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 there was no fire within. 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. it will still take some time to save up twenty-five thousand simoleons, but we’ll be on our way.” It was his 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 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 find an apiarist who will either take the bees or sell us a new box. 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 you right now, and I love it.”

“I know I should be sad. 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 her and me. 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, laughing, and having fun. It was the first time since Penny’s illness that either of them had laughed, and it felt good.


A week later, a letter arrived for Fran from a prominent attorney. It came by a 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 never said so, Charlie. She owned a fifty percent stake in it, and 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. It is something we can’t control, something I had no idea would happen. What was Mama 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 mucking, 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 need care, and if that’s what you have on your list 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 stupefied.

“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 stood nearby and waited 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, 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. 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 worked on the chicken coop, so he set the pitchfork down and wiped his hands on his pants.

“Hello?”

“Hi, love,” Fran greeted him. “Nearly everything has sold, so I closed my stand 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 the season is over.” 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 with the boxes, 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 it 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. I’ll be 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. I asked to meet with you because your mother had her will on file with this office. You have my condolences on her passing. She was a wonderful lady.” Fran nodded. “By now, you have been informed of the Farnam’s intentions regarding the Arabian mare. Your mother’s testament 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 it with feed for the winter. She also considered that she would need to plant some new 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 thought 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 that we can guarantee payment to a contractor? 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. She’s 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.” 


The expansion of the barn began three days later. The contractor, who worked with Caleb Bradford, came highly recommended. The project would complete 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 arrived at the farm, and Fran was shocked. She was expecting a brown or black horse. But Marne was a palomino, and the horse 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 friendly.” 

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“She is beautiful, that’s for sure.” Charlie inspected her. “New shoes, freshly bathed and groomed. She’s unmistakably 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 guys finish the barn construction. 

For the rest of the afternoon, Marne was left in the pasture to graze and run. She was 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 stabled her for the evening. The mare loved the attention and nickered 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 attention. From all I know about racehorses, they aren’t usually this friendly. She was 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 finish my 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:

ModTheSims
Love and Horses, A Pose Pack by Kaleeko

Custom Content:

Sugar Legacy Stables
Marne’s blanket and Comfort Halter

The Sims 3 Exchange
Straw Floor Pattern

Sims By Severinka
“Moo” 

TheSims3 Store
Missy and the Cow Barn

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