I made it! Haha. I've got a chapter done for you on time. Or at least close. From here on out we'll be on the two week schedule. So next week there won't be a chapter (make sure you visit anyway for something fun!) but there will be one the week after that. As usual, be sure to comment below with what you think should happen next. And if you have any quilting experience, help me figure out what a Rocking Country Star quilt would look like. I'll be working on that design for a while, but would love help from anyone with more experience than I've got.
Following the Harvest Party, Blizzard decided she’d had enough excitement for a while. Scarlett and I agreed not to tell Blizzard about my breakdown. It would only worry her. Monday after Blizzard left for school, I got busy in the kitchen making calzones. Amelia had a soft spot for Italian food and it was something we could eat without getting too messy. After slicing some of the last vegetables from my garden and making a jug of lemonade, I started loading the work truck. Franky saw me and came over. “Hey, Mrs. Jannsen, where you headed?”
“Amelia hinted rather strongly that I’ve been away from town too long,” I replied.
He laughed. “Doesn’t that mean you haven’t been there in a whole day?”
“Now, Franky, give her some credit. Two days.” We laughed and I asked, “Any news yet?”
Franky shook his head. “Still waiting.”
“Well, you’re in charge until I get back. Dr. Jones will be here around eleven to check the mares. Make sure she takes a good look at Skipperdeen. She’s been a bit listless the last day or so.”
“You think she’ll be able to carry both foals?”
I frowned. “I don’t know, Franky. Unfortunately with when Scarlett’s wedding was and all the things going on at the time, I forgot to have that early exam done. Since Quarters don’t twin often and Skipperdeen’s never twinned, I didn’t worry too much. We can only hope things go well, but be prepared when they don’t.”
He nodded. “Anything else you need done today?”
“Just the normal things. And double check that everything is cleaned up from the party.”
“Sounds good, Mrs. Jannsen. Have fun in town.”
I smiled and waved as I drove away. The drive was fairly short, even though Amelia’s shop is on the farther end of town. As I drove past shops and homes, I waved at the people walking the sidewalks. Pine Springs is a nice community. I stopped in front of Quarters of My Heart and gathered up the food before walking inside. Amelia looked up from her long arm quilting machine. “Hi there, Tabitha. What have you brought with you today?”
“Calzones and fresh veggies with ranch dip.”
“Mmm-mm, you’re spoiling me today.”
“Consider it an apology. I have been away for a while.”
“Well, I can’t say I blame you too much,” Amelia admitted as she led me to a back table. “You’ve had your hands full. How many mares do you have with foal right now?”
“Twenty. We’re going to have a busy spring, that’s for sure.”
“I bet. And how’s Skipperdeen?”
I sighed, “I don’t know, Amelia. It would have been so much easier had we found out about the twins early enough to do something about it. At this point, it’s just a waiting game. Maybe things will turn out all right, maybe they won’t.”
Amelia nodded. “That is the hardest part of ranch life, I think. I guess that’s why after I grew up I decided to open a business instead of ranching like my parents had. I just can’t stand the heartbreak when things go wrong.”
“It’s certainly not easy.”
“But enough sadness for one afternoon. Has Blizzard heard back from that recording studio yet?”
“No and it’s driving her up the walls. The DJ from Scarlett’s reception got her in touch with them, but they’ve been slow to respond to her. We’ll see what happens. It may end up just being an empty lead.”
“Oh, that would be a shame. She’s so talented.”
“She is. But maybe right now it’s for the best,” I replied. “For now she focus on her schoolwork and educating herself. Then she can be a hit singer.”
We were quiet for a while as we ate our lunch together. While we cleaned up from our meals, Amelia said, “You sure know how to cook. Maybe you ought to consider opening a diner in town when Scarlett takes over Starwood.”
I laughed. “I don’t see Scarlett taking over for me. More likely Blizzard will be the ranch-girl. Scarlett wants to open some kind of little diner or shop, but she hasn’t decided where yet.”
“How long does she have in school?”
“About two years to get her bachelors, why?”
“Did you know Mindy Pinkleton is going to be retiring soon? She’s run that little donut shop for years. I’ve heard her talking about looking for someone to buy it from her. It’s getting hard for her to keep up with the demand. Everyone knows that Mindy’s is the place for breakfast and Tammy’s is supper. The two kind of split the lunch orders. Anyway, I’m just sayin’ that if Scarlett wants a place to start up her little shop, there will probably be something available.”
“Do you think Mindy will wait two years? Scarlett’s not going to want to leave Cheyenne until she finishes school.”
Amelia shrugged. “Don’t know. Couldn’t hurt to ask though, could it?”
“No, wouldn’t hurt at all. Now, how about you show me that new fabric line?”
She led me to her new arrivals shelf and showed me the new prints. Hearts and horses and music. “This has Blizzard written all over it,” I said with a smile, running my hands over the fabrics.
“That’s what I thought when I saw it. And look over here,” she added. “This is a booklet with different quilt patterns and options made with the line in mind. I’m seriously thinking of doing a class with this one.” She flipped to a page in the booklet and handed it to me.
“Rocking Country Star.” I smiled. “When do you plan on starting the class?”
“Well, I was hoping to do it after the new year and with you helping me teach it. I bet the two of us together could get this put together before Christmas and then be able to teach the class after that. You know I always like to have an example to show off.”
I laughed. “I should have known you’d rope me into that. I think that’s a great idea. Why don’t I start coming down on Tuesdays and Thursdays to work on the quilt with you?”
I looked around for a while and picked out several fabrics to start on different projects. I took a long look at some of the baby options.
“It’s been a long while since you made a baby quilt, Tabitha,” Amelia said. “Anything I should know about?”
“Oh, no, just looking. After all, eventually I’m sure Scarlett will want a family. And Sarah’s little one is about to get a toddler bed. She should probably get a new quilt to go along with that, don’t you think?”
“Honey, I think everyone needs a new quilt, no matter what the reason,” Amelia laughed. “Have you seen the fairy set over here?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I said, glad to have gotten Amelia’s mind away from my daughter. I may have had my suspicions, but I wasn’t about to share them with my gossipy friend. Amelia wasn’t a mean gossip, and I don’t think she really meant to do it. She just liked to talk and sometimes told things she maybe should have kept to herself.
When I left her shop I had a bag full of fabrics and plans set up to start the new quilt with her. I set my purchases on the passenger seat of the truck before walking around to the driver’s door. I heard voices across the street and glanced over. Sam Henley was caught in an argument with a tall, dark-haired woman I didn’t recognize. She couldn’t have been anyone from town. I knew just about everyone and her clothes were far too trendy to have been from our ranching community.
I knew whatever was going on wasn’t any of my business, so I got in my truck and drove away. But I couldn’t help wondering who that woman was.
Tuesday night I sat at my favorite booth with Teddy and Scarlett at Tammy’s Diner listening to Blizzard sing. Josiah was sitting with Skipperdeen. Dr. Jones was concerned and had recommended having someone with her fairly constantly until there was some change If she seemed to get worse, we were to call her right away. Franky had warned me of the likelihood that Skipperdeen would lose the pregnancy. “Dr. Jones isn’t very hopeful,” he’d said when I returned from Amelia’s.
I sighed and cleared my thoughts as Teddy said, “She’s got such talent, Tabitha. You must be so proud of her.”
Blizzard introduced her next song and I listened as she described the inspiration for it. “Most of you know my sister and her husband. This is the song I wrote for them.” She had just started to sing Real Fairy Tales when my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and glanced at it. “Oh no,” I muttered.
“Who is it?” Scarlett whispered.
I answered the call. “Hello, Mom.”
“Tabitha dear, I just thought I’d let you know that I’m at the airport right now. I’ll be at Starwood in a few hours.”
“I’m hailing a taxi even as we speak. See you soon, love!”
“No, Mom, don’t hang up!” But it was too late. I growled in frustration.
“What’s the matter?” Scarlett asked.
“Your grandmother just decided to drop in unannounced. Again.”
Scarlett laughed. “That’s normal for Grandma.”
“Yes, but right now is about the worst possible time she could come. Skipperdeen is…” I trailed off. We hadn’t told Scarlett how bad things were for her hors.Skipperdeen had been Scarlett’s 4-H project in high school and there was a good chance she was about to lose her foals. If an infection set in, we could lose her too.
“Mama, none of you are fooling me,” Scarlett replied, her tone quiet. “Carrying twins is hard on a person, let alone a horse.”
“Scarlett, how did you find out? We all agreed not to tell you.”
“Did you really think you could keep it a secret? Dr. Jones called me,” Scarlett admitted. “It’s a small town. She remembers who Skipperdeen really belongs to. She’s been giving me updates ever since she discovered the twins.”
I couldn’t remember ever feeling so ashamed of myself. Here was my adult daughter and I’d been treating her like a fragile child. It wasn’t fair of me. Scarlett had grown up on the ranch. She’d seen more than one mare go through this sort of thing. She’d seen stillborn foals. I’d acted as though Scarlett couldn’t handle the reality of ranching when perhaps the person who really struggled was me. “You must hate me.”
Scarlett shook her head. “Mama, I could never hate you. I know why you made the decision you did. And I appreciate it. Lord knows this semester has been rough enough without the added stress. But, I wish you had told me yourself instead of making me find out from Dr. Jones. I’ve asked for the next few days off so I can help sit with Skipperdeen. We’ll see her through this, whatever this may turn out to be.”
Blizzard finished her song amid cheering and hollering. She came down to our table and smiled. “Ready to head home?” she asked.
“Better be. Grandma’s coming.”
“Grandma as in Grandma Jannsen, right?” she asked hopefully.
“You know Grandma Jannsen never comes unannounced,” Scarlett laughed. “She always has her itinerary planned three months in advance! As I recall, she’ll be coming for Christmas this year.”
“Guess that means we’re going to be cleaning house when we get home instead of relaxing, huh?” Blizzard said, her shoulders drooping.
I hesitated. Normally I would have said yes. My mother liked things to be tidy and organized, despite her whirlwind personality. But at the same time, I knew the girls and I needed to be able to take care of our horses, especially Skipperdeen. “Forget the cleaning,” I replied after a moment. “Let’s just enjoy some time together and take care of the horses. My mother can deal with the ranch looking like a ranch instead of a palace.” The girls stared at me wide-eyed. “What? If you really want to clean...”
“No, we’re good,” they said at once.
“Well, let’s go home and be waiting for Grandma’s taxi.”
What is Grandma's plan for this visit?
A. She's planning on moving to Starwood because she doesn't like living alone.
B. Grandma is going to help Blizzard get straight A's because, "we all know she struggles so."
C. She wants to spend Halloween somewhere where there won't be any trick-or-treaters.
D. Grandma just knew she was needed at Starwood and is going to help wherever she can.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius