My wonderful readers, I first would like to thank you for the abundance of love, support and prayers you have offered during this difficult time for me. I have felt those prayers and thoughts so deeply and am so humbled by the response I have seen. Huge hugs to each of you wonderful readers, both men and women, who have offered your sympathy and hugs. And now that I've made us all mushy, it's time to start The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen! Here is the first chapter, which you may have already read if you've ordered Scarlett and Blizzard. If not, enjoy! I'm not sure when I'll be able to get this onto YouTube, but I will try *crosses fingers* to have that done before the next chapter goes up as well as catching up on Scarlett and Blizzard's chapters. Don't forget to voice your opinion on what should happen next. Because poll options are no longer available, I'll ask the question and give the options after the chapter. All you have to do is comment here to let me know what you want to see happen next! Also, last thing I promise before I give you the chapter, please take a moment to fill out this reader survey for me. It really will help me. And without further ado, The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen.
There’s nothing quite like a wedding to point out how lonely you are. Maybe that’s not exactly fair of me, but it’s true.
Sorry, I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Tabitha Jannsen. You’ve probably met my girls, Scarlett and Blizzard. They’re quite the pair aren’t they? Blizzard is preparing for her junior year in high school and Scarlett has finally married her knight in chaps and cowboy hat.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for her. I really am. But I can’t deny how much I’ll miss her. Granted, she was planning on leaving the nest anyway. She’s recently taken a work-study position at the University of Wyoming’s business school. It’s about time too. I could tell she was getting antsy here at Starwood Acres. Her dreams are elsewhere, though I certainly hope she’ll stay close enough for an easy visit. Maybe I can convince her that Pine Springs really does need its very own gourmet cocoa shop once she graduates from college.
Anyway, I’m rambling. I tend to do that when I’m nervous and this is something totally new to me. Blizzard is much better at these sorts of things than I am. But she told me after writing Scarlett’s story, she’s done writing for a while. We’ll see how long that lasts.
So, where to start? I guess right where I did. Scarlett’s wedding was perfect in every way. From her princess gown to the star-studded, cowgirl boots she wore under it. I guess you can take the girl from the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. We held the reception right here at Starwood. If you’ve never been to Wyoming in the summer, you need to plan a visit. It’s beautiful here with the Teton Mountains standing strong in the distance. Nights can get chilly and the wind out here is really something. But it’s home. At least it has been for the last thirty years. I moved here after marrying Paul. He met me at one of my rodeos and somehow convinced me that ranch-life was just the thing I needed. He was right, of course. He always was. For a long time everything was perfect. We were happy as could be and then Scarlett was born. Despite wanting a whole house-full of babies, it took ten years before Blizzard came. But Paul never complained, never worried. He always said things would happen in God’s time. I just didn’t know that God’s timing would take him away from me far too soon. It wasn’t long after Blizzard’s tenth birthday that he got suddenly sick and died.
My thoughts strayed to Paul often during the reception. Every first I watched Scarlett and Josiah accomplish reminded me of my firsts with Paul. Their first dance. Their ring ceremony. Josiah smearing frosting on Scarlett’s nose. All of it brought a flood of memories. I tried my best not to let Scarlett see how I felt. This was her special night and I wasn’t about to spoil it. Blizzard sang them an absolutely beautiful song and tears sprang in my eyes. I didn’t know what the DJ said to her as she was leaving the stage, but her teal eyes were as big as saucers and her grin put the sun to shame. She skipped over to me, her purple-streaked curls bouncing around her face. “Ohmigosh, Mom, you’ll never believe it! Mom, are you crying?”
I smiled. “Oh, I’m fine honey. That was a beautiful song and it really touched me, that’s all.”
Blizzard frowned. If there’s one thing she can’t stand, it’s secrets. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Positive. Now what am I never going to believe?”
“The DJ said he might have some connections to getting me into a recording studio! A real recording studio! How awesome would that be?”
“I’m proud of you, sweetheart,” I said. “When will you know?”
“He said it will probably take some time. I’m going to go tell Scarlett. You’re sure you’re okay?”
“Quit worrying about me,” I retorted with a smile. “Go on.”
As she was leaving, a familiar voice said, “That girl’s got more energy than any human being should be allowed.”
My heart leapt in my throat as I turned to see Sheriff William Henley leaning against a nearby tree. “I wouldn’t have her any other way. The world needs a little more light.”
He nodded and moved closer. “Yep, I suppose it does. Especially after all you ladies have been through.”
I didn’t need reminded. Starwood Acres had always been safe, until unrequited love drove one of our hands to do the unthinkable. A shiver raced up my spine as my thoughts turned to what might have happened if Josiah and Scarlett hadn’t acted as swiftly as they had. “But that’s all behind us now, right?”
William put a gentle hand over mine. “Yes, ma’am. None of them will be bothering you again, I guarantee it.”
My mother chose that particular moment to demand my attention. “There you are, Tabitha. If you don’t come soon you’ll miss seeing Scarlett off. That cowboy of hers has it in his head to run away with her.”
“He’s not exactly running away with her, Mom,” I pointed out with a sigh as William moved away. “Scarlett’s unlikely to tell Josiah no tonight.” I followed her to see that Josiah had indeed carried Scarlett to his truck and placed her in the truck bed where she stood to throw her bouquet. Girls squealed and giggled as it flew over their heads. A smile teased the corners of my mouth. I clapped with everyone else and waved as Josiah helped his bride into the truck and drove away. “Good luck, you two,” I called.
“How do you like that?” Mom grumped. “They didn’t even come over here to say goodbye!”
“They’re young and in love, Mom. Leave them be,” I replied. “Come help me get things taken down. It could rain overnight and I’d rather not have all these new tablecloths ruined.”
Thankfully between Mom, Blizzard and my dear friend, Amelia, we were able to get things cleaned up fairly quickly. Blizzard, though she claimed she was too excited to sleep, quickly disappeared to her room after everyone left. I can’t say I blame her. I love my mother dearly, I truly do. But she can be overbearing and once she starts hearing wedding bells, you may as well give it up. She won’t stop talking about them until everyone she comes in contact with is happily married. Unfortunately, that meant I got to be her target for the evening. As we were washing dishes, Mom said, “So, who was that talking to you earlier?”
“Sheriff Henley is just a friend, Mom.”
“He’s very handsome,” Mom observed.
Can’t argue that one, I thought. William was handsome. Silver at the temples with dark brown hair gave William a classic, yet rugged appeal. His brown eyes were warm and kind. He kept our town safe and volunteered first when anyone needed help. However, I wasn’t about to let my mother in on my thoughts. “Hmm.”
“Don’t you ‘hmmm’ me, Tabitha Ann. I saw how you were looking at him. Is he single?”
“Why don’t you try dating him? Paul’s been gone six years now. It’s time to move on.”
“Mother, if and when I ‘move on’ is strictly between me and God. You are not privy to that conversation,” I snapped. She was quiet and I sighed, “Look, Mom, there are a lot of factors to consider. You of all people should understand. At first, I was too busy here with Blizzard and Scarlett and keeping the ranch afloat and now,” I sighed again. “I don’t know, Mom. I guess I’m just not sure the time is right. And if it at all makes you feel better, William and I have seen each other casually a few times over the last year.”
She gave me a small smile. “Well, I suppose that’s progress in the right direction.”
I wasn’t sure I’d call it that. But if it got Mom off my back for a little while, I’d take it.
What Happens Next?
Fall is coming and Blizzard has decided they need to do something to celebrate and bring people out to Starwood. Which of the following options do you like best? Comment below!
A. Corn Maze/Corn Husking
B. Moonlit Trail Ride
C. Harvest Party
D. Why pick one? They should do it all!
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius