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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*****

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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.

G1 Chapter Six – Saying Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have a confession.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penny rolled her eyes. “A baby monitor?” 

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have my word.” 


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

“What’s wrong, Mama?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fran tethered Missy to her post and prepared to milk her. But Fran cried and rested her head against Missy’s side. “I’m going to miss you,” she wept. “I’m sorry, little Miss. I’ll try this again later.”

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She released Missy’s halter and allowed her to graze freely outside. Fran ran into the house and up the stairs.

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’s your Mama?” 

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean, exactly?” Penny asked. 

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, Jon,” Penny answered. 

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

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

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


Two weeks later, Penny’s condition had deteriorated quickly. A home nurse made sure she was kept comfortable. She slept most of the time, but Fran didn’t mind. If she was asleep, she wasn’t in pain. Fran stayed with her as much as she could between chores.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

“What is this?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, Charlie.” 

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

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

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

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

“Mama?” 

“Yes, baby girl?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather stepped toward her to verify Penny’s passing. “I am so sorry, Miss Fran,” she said sadly. She held her arms open to hug Fran, but Fran collapsed on Penny’s bed and sobbed uncontrollably. 

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

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Up Next: Chapter Seven, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee
Disputes Over Money
Don’t Die, Daddy

Mod The Sims
Next To You by Spladoum

Custom Content:

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

ModTheSims
Nouk’s Long Wavy Hair (Fran’s Hair) by Anubis360
Hospital Set (Bed) by Hekate999

The Sims Resource
Charlie’s Dog Tags by NataliS

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

Generation One Is Live!

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

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

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

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

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

G1 Chapter Five – When It Rains, It Pours

Four years later 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shh, it’s okay, love. I promise.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much are we talking?” he asked.

“With all included, we’re looking at over §25,000 per attempt.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fran walked to her mother and embraced her. “It’s nothing, Mama. I forgive you.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s not good enough!” she cried. “I need you, Mama!” 

“You have Charlie, and he will take care of you for me. Besides, I’m sure I’m not going to die tomorrow.” 

“Without further testing, it will be difficult to know exactly, but I estimate four to six months at a minimum.” Dr. Miller patted Fran on the shoulder. “I’m very sorry.” 

For the second time in less than a day, Fran’s world turned upside down. 

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Up Next: Chapter Six, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee:
Couples Poses
Don’t Die Daddy!
Meeting At A Bar
Emotion Pose Pack

Skylar’s Sanctuary
Zutara 2 “Broken” by Skylar Arden

Custom Content:

Hospital For Storytelling by Jamee at Jamee’s Sims 3 (CC used within the hospital is listed at Jamee’s Sims 3)
Charlie’s Dog Tag Accessory by NataliS at TSR
Nouk’s Long Wavy Hair (Fran’s Hair) by Anubis360 at ModTheSims

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