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.
Readers, I know I've been promising forever, but today it's finally here! The second chapter to The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen! So sorry to be so slow. If it's been so long you don't remember the first chapter, you can read it here. Don't forget to comment below with where you think the story should go next! The next chapter will come out next Friday (January 6) and then we'll go back to a two-week schedule for chapters.
Blizzard never was one to sit still. As the months followed Scarlett’s wedding, I could see my younger daughter becoming restless. After her sighing about how lonely and boring Starwood was without Scarlett, I suggested she find some sort of project to occupy her time. Josiah jumped on the bandwagon during one of his weekends working at the ranch and said, “Blizz, I bet you’d have a lot of fun putting together a harvest party.”
“A harvest party?” she repeated, her teal eyes intrigued and suspicious at the same time.
“Yeah. They’re real popular this time of year. We’ve got a great corn crop this year. Maybe you could arrange a corn husking and a corn maze, your barn is the perfect size for a harvest ball. And I for one know that Scarlett would never be able to resist that.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve got rope.”
Blizzard giggled and I said, “Wait a minute, Josiah, you are absolutely not tying my daughter up.”
He laughed, his brown eyes twinkling. “Don’t worry, Mom, I don’t think I’ll have to.”
“This will be so much fun. What do you think, Mom?”
I hesitated. As fun as that sounded, it also sounded like an awful lot of work and even more people at the ranch. “Well, if you can keep up with your schoolwork and 4-H responsibilities, I suppose it would be all right.”
You’d have thought I’d just given her the keys to a brand-new truck with how her face glowed. “Thanks, Mom! This is going to be the absolute best harvest party ever!”
Blizzard spent the next few weeks in a flurry of activity. She enlisted Scarlett’s help making invitations and Josiah was put to work with some of the other hands setting up the corn maze. When she wasn’t working on the party, she was talking about it. Somehow she did keep up with her chores, though I suspect a certain brother-in-law might have been responsible for some of that. And she managed not to neglect our three puppies too badly. Mclintock didn’t mind her being busy as he’s definitely my boy. But Rooster and Cogburn did not appreciate her new-found project. The Scotties would follow after her, whining and yipping for her attention. To her credit, she would always stop to play with them for a bit. As invitations went out, I wondered what the response would be. I’ve never really been one for entertaining. I guess I stay too busy with work to bother much with it. But Blizzard is my social butterfly. She loves to be the center of attention, probably good since she has dreams of being a country singer.
The day before her harvest party, Franky came in with a smile on his tanned face and his hat clutched in his hands. “Hey Blizz, how’re things goin’?”
“Great! I’ve heard from almost everyone at the high school. They’re all coming! I can’t wait!”
“Is there something you needed Franky?” I asked.
“Yes, ma’am. I wondered if I could get off a little early tonight.”
“Any special reason?”
“Well, Brother Cairn called and my appointment with President Schafer has been moved up an hour. I’d rather not smell like horse at my final interview.”
“Wimp,” Blizzard teased.
“Hey, this is the last one before my mission papers get sent in. Better to make a good impression.”
I laughed. “That’s fine, Franky. Why don’t you take off at three tonight?”
“I don’t need that much time,” he mumbled.
“But it won’t hurt anything either. Go on. We’ve got enough people here to help out with everything. You deserve a break.”
“You’re going to tell us first when you get your call, right?” Blizzard asked.
“Nope. Teddy’s got first dibs.”
Blizzard tried to pout and failed.
“But you’ll definitely hear second,” he added.
She gave a dramatic sigh. “I suppose that’ll be good enough.”
“Better be, cowgirl,” Franky replied, tweaking one of her curls. He laughed as her cheeks flushed and said, “I better get busy if I’m going to get all my chores done before quittin’ time. Thanks, Mrs. Jannsen.” He tipped his head and walked out the door.
Blizzard watched him go before turning her attention back to the scarecrows she was stuffing. I could have teased her about it, but I didn’t. Instead I said, “I’m going to be in the office for a while. If anyone stops by or calls, you know the drill.”
“Yep. I say, ‘Thank goodness you’re here! My mom’s been kidnapped and I’m trying to raise a million dollars for ransom. Would you like to make a donation?’”
She laughed. “Just teasing you, Mom. I’ll make up a much better story.”
Isn’t it funny how the more irritated you get with your teenage children, the more amused they become? Blizzard just laughed some more. “Come on, Mom, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve been in charge of the house. Go get your work done already.”
I gave her a last stern look, which she laughed at. Don’t blame her really, I was having a hard time keeping the grin off my face. It’s practically impossible to stay mad at her. Almost as hard as saying no. Paul never could. I walked into the office. There wasn’t really much work to be done, but it was a kind of sanctuary for me. I could sit there quietly with Mclintock at my heels and just think. After sitting at the desk, Mclintock wrapped himself around my feet. He was big, even for a German Shepherd and I knew he probably wasn’t done growing yet. But boy had that pup wrapped himself around my heart. Despite Paul always insisting that dogs stayed out in the barn or the yard, I just couldn’t send him outside. Every now and again I would hear Paul’s voice in the back of my mind. “You’re spoilin’ that pup, Tabby. Put him outside where all proper dogs belong.”
“Let me spoil him,” I murmured and rubbed behind Mclintock’s ears before turning on my computer. I went over the budgets and bank statements to make sure everything matched. It had been a good year for us. Blizzard had seen a record number of travelers come through for our summer trail rides. Thinking about the rides reminded me of the upcoming event. I knew Blizzard was planning a midnight trail ride. I frowned. I normally don’t mind her setting up trail rides on her own. In fact it’s part of her job. But midnight rides can be dangerous. She promised to set up extra precautions and, like all our rides, the riders would sign a liability release form. That may sound silly, but believe me all it takes is one lawsuit to shut you down.
When I’d caught up on my actual work I stood and stretched. I walked to the window and looked outside. My office overlooks the road. I could see our wooden ranch sign. Starwood Acres was spelled out in scrolled letters. Josiah had painted it last summer and it looked as pretty as it did the day Paul set it up. Bright red and snowy white roses bloomed all over the bushes in front of the sign in a final display of summer. Green fields stretched on the other side of the road and the mountains stood tall in the distance. Wispy white clouds floated across a blue sky. I took a deep breath and released it with a sigh. Mclintock came and rubbed my leg. “We’ve sure been blessed, haven’t we boy?”
Blizzard’s harvest party came on a breezy fall day. The winds whistled through the corn stalks and half the ranch was busy with last minute preparations. Scarlett showed up bright and early with Josiah to help out. He kissed her cheek before going to assist the others taking the stock horses out to the far pastures. She watched after him a moment before looking at Blizzard with a grin. “All right, Blizz, put me to work.”
And boy did she! Blizzard had us moving tables, setting out tablecloths and place settings, and arranging centerpieces until she declared the barn perfect. Not long after friends and neighbors began trickling in. My good friend, Amelia, was one of the first to arrive. “Oh my, Tabitha, you look so beautiful today! Anything I should know about?”
“I didn’t do much more than normal, Amelia. Just my favorite blouse and jeans.”
“Well, you’re going to be the belle of the ball tonight, that’s for sure.”
I laughed. “I think I’m a bit old to be playing that game, Amelia.”
“You and me both, darling. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I’ve got a new line of fabrics in. As soon as I saw them I just knew you had to have them. It’s been such a busy day though that I left them at the shop.”
“Left them on accident or on purpose to give me an excuse to drive out there?” I teased.
Amelia gasped. “Why Tabitha Jannsen, I’m scandalized that you would think so. I would certainly never resort to such trickery to get my best friend into my shop.” Her blue eyes twinkled. “Although, if the opportunity arose to remind my dear friend of all the wonders my shop holds for her, well, I might not be able to resist.”
We laughed together and I said, “How about I drop by Monday with lunch?”
“Oh, Tabitha, you don’t have to bring me lunch.”
“Isn’t that what friends who have been away too long do?”
“I suppose so.” She paused when she saw someone behind me. “I think I’ll go see if Blizzard needs my help with anything. Chat later, dear!”
Before I could argue or even say goodbye, Amelia was off. I turned to see Sam standing behind me with my dear friend Teddy Meddleton. I smiled warmly. “Teddy!” I wrapped him in a gentle hug. His health was declining and it broke my heart to see him looking so thin and worn.
“Tabitha my dear, you’re as lovely as ever.”
“And you are still as biased as ever,” I retorted with a smile. “How are you today?”
“Well, the nurse let me out the door, so I must not be in too bad of shape,” he replied with a wink. With a more serious expression, Teddy said, “I’ll be fine. Scarlett and Josiah hardly leave me alone. How they can possibly keep up with their schoolwork and jobs is beyond me.”
“They’re still at that age they don’t need sleep to function, right?”
“Must be. They’re sure happy together aren’t they.”
I glanced over where they were in the midst of an argument about Heaven knew what. “When they’re not fighting.”
He chuckled. “That’s going to be the tale of that marriage. Anyhow, I just wanted to say hi. I think I’ll go sit for a while.”
I hugged him again. “I’m so glad you’re here, Teddy.”
“Me too. Now quit making your man jealous.”
A blush stole across my cheeks. Was it really that obvious? Teddy wandered to a table. Josiah and Scarlett soon saw him and joined him, setting their spat aside.I turned back to Sam. “Thanks for bringing him over. I know Josiah had wanted to.”
“He asked me to since things were busier here than he anticipated. It was no problem,” Sam replied. He looked around. “This is quite a party you’ve set up.”
“Blizzard is the brain behind it all. Creativity just seems to flow in her veins.”
“That’s a good thing. Listen, I know we’d had plans to go see that movie Tuesday, but I’ve had a conflict come up.”
I couldn’t hide my disappointment, though I tried. “Oh? I’m sorry to hear that. It’ll be okay though. Blizzard was wanting me to come to the diner with her that night anyway. She’s got some new songs she’s going to debut.”
“Yeah. Could I reschedule for Thursday?”
“I’ll be busy Thursday, but maybe Saturday?”
“I think I can swing Saturday.” He was quiet a moment as he scanned the room. “Anything you need me to do tonight?”
“You’re off-duty, Sheriff. Tonight your only job is to have fun.”
I heard Blizzard’s voice come over a loud speaker. She announced the activities and soon we were too busy having fun to talk much. Blizzard really had thought of everything. There was a corn maze, bobbing for apples, a cake walk, a Western style photo booth, dinner and a dance. There was a steady influx of people coming in and out and I knew with Blizzard’s five dollar entry fee, we were probably making a good amount of extra money. Some of the activities also had small fees on them. After sunset, those who wanted to participate in the midnight trail ride gathered by the front table. Paperwork was set out to be signed, Scarlett collected fees, Franky handed helmets to each rider, and Josiah took them to a horse.
Blizzard soon mounted Chalk Art and called out, “Let’s go! Stay on the path and keep behind the rider in front of you.”
I tamped down the nerves building in my stomach. I hadn’t gone on a nighttime ride since before Paul died. He’d gotten sick just after we’d had a late ride together as a date night. It didn’t matter how much the doctor claimed his illness wasn’t related to our late night, I couldn’t fight the guilt. I fell in line behind Scarlett and Zander. My horse was a surprisingly tall Quarab. (For those of you who aren’t horsey, that’s a horse bred from a quarter horse and an Arabian.) Anyway, he had all the grace of an Arabian with the strength and agility of a quarter. As the ride got started I could hear the whispered awe as people saw the ranch under moonlight. It was beautiful. A crisp breeze flowed over us, a constant reminder that summer was nearly past. The moon shone golden yellow down on us, just as it had all those years ago. The wind whispering through the pines teased me with memories of Paul’s voice. Before I realized it, tears were flowing down my cheeks. Scarlett heard me sniffling and turned. She slowed Zander until we were side-by-side. “Mama, are you okay?”
I tried to respond, but my throat was too tight.
Scarlett moved forward to Josiah and said something to him before coming back and taking the reins from me. “Come on, Sheik. Let’s get Mama home.” Zander and Sheik fell into rhythm easily, passing other riders who Scarlett called encouragement to.
As we passed the end of the line where Franky was helping the stragglers, he frowned. “You gals okay?”
“Yeah, I just had a headache and Mama’s going to help me feel better.”
His frown deepened and it was obvious he didn’t believe Scarlett for a second. “All right. I’ve got a cell if you ladies need anything.”
We reached the barn and dismounted. Scarlett took Sheik and Zander inside to their stalls and called to one of the wranglers to get them washed down and fed. Then she returned to my side. I was shivering uncontrollably and sobbing. She wrapped her arms around me and steered me to the house. Without speaking, she wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and set me down on the sofa in front of the fireplace. After starting a fire, she disappeared into the kitchen, returning later with a steaming mug in her hand. “Good thing I started this before we went out,” she said. She handed the mug to me and sat next to me. “Do you want to talk about it?”
I shook my head. No, I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to tell her how badly I still hurt after all these years. I didn’t want to admit how hard it was to see her with Josiah, happy and carefree like I used to be. I didn’t want to put a voice to the worry and sorrow. I couldn’t.
She nodded as though just by looking at me, she’d known my thoughts. Her arms wrapped around me. “Mama, it’s okay to still hurt. I know it’s different, but I miss him too.” Then she sat just holding me. It was as though we’d switched places. She was the caring mother comforting her grieving child.
Once I found my voice again, I said, “You’ll be a great mom someday.”
Scarlett smiled, the one that said she had a secret she wasn’t ready to share yet. “Maybe someday.”
Blizzard's next performance is going to be interrupted. What's going to happen?
1) Josiah is going to call about Sscarlett.
2) Scarlett is going to call about Josiah.
3) Teddy's nurse is going to call unable to reach Scarlett or Josiah.
4) Tabitha's mom is going to call from the airport.
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