“Oh my gosh, you guys! That’s disgusting!” Sarah chastised her younger sister from her vantage point in the entryway to the living room.
Ashley and her new boyfriend Roy fell off the couch, sheepish at the position in which Sarah had found them.
When Sarah had left them alone to get a Coke out of the refrigerator, she knew they’d likely sneak a kiss while she was gone, but this was beyond what she thought could happen in the thirty seconds she’d left them alone.
They weren’t just kissing passionately sitting next to each other on the couch. Roy was practically on top of Ashley, and they were more accurately described as lying on the couch, rather than sitting.
“Dad! You need to get these guys married,” Sarah yelled into the other room. “Before they do something really wrong!”
Roy turned to Ashley with wide eyes and a slacked jaw. “Would you marry me?” he asked Ashley.
“Yeah,” Ashley told him. ‘Duh’ was how she sounded, as if the answer was pretty obvious. Everyone in the family assumed from the minute Ashley and Roy met that they’d get married. Sarah was surprised Roy was just now asking Ashley.
“Wait,” Roy backpedaled. “I will not ask you to marry me like this; I will get you a ring, I promise.”
“I don’t need a ring,” Ashley melted back into his arms. “I just need you.”
“Oh, gag me,” Sarah said, rolling her eyes.
They’d been inseparable since Dr. Roy Peters moved to Michigan and took over old Doc Silverman’s veterinarian practice two weeks prior. He had shaken up all their worlds, settling the long-time feud for Ashley’s heart that had brewed between their next-door neighbor, Paul Davis, and Caleb Rogers, the cute med student Ashley had met at the University of Michigan. Roy came into the picture and Ashley never looked back.
Their dad, Stan Hardman, finally came around the corner, folding his newspaper under his arm. His stern brow showed his frustration. He took a deep breath and sat on the chair closest to Roy but spoke directly to Ashley.
Ashley and Roy pulled away from each other again and sat on the couch a foot apart from one another but still holding hands.
“What exactly were you doing that made your sister so upset?” he asked in a calm but stern voice.
“Nothing, Daddy. I promise!” Ashley bit her lower lip with naïve innocence.
“Ha!” Sarah corrected her sister. “He was practically on top of you, and his hands were everywhere!”
“They were not,” Ashley defended. “We were just kissing.”
“Sarah—” Their dad’s quiet, even tone was more menacing than if he had been yelling. “Please go upstairs and let me deal with this.”
Not a chance, Sarah thought, settling her shoulder against the doorframe again. Ashley had always been the good daughter, a natural farmer, hard worker and their dad’s favorite. Sarah relished this chance to see her squirm.
Their father turned his glare on Roy. “Is this true? Were you touching my daughter inappropriately?”
“No sir, Bishop Hardman.” Roy lifted his chin, overconfident. Sarah wanted to call him out on his lie, but didn’t want their father to tell her again to leave the room. “I mean, we were probably a little out of line. I really didn’t mean to…” His voice trailed off and he cringed.
“What are your intentions with my daughter?”
“Well, sir—” Roy stopped, cleared his throat, then squared his shoulders and looked Stan firmly in the eyes. “I’d like to marry her… if that would be okay with you.”
“I don’t know.” Stan looked over at Ashley, then back at Roy. “Do you think you can keep your hands off my daughter until then?”
Roy’s voice was almost a squeak when he answered. “Yes, Sir.”
“Are you worthy to take her to the temple?” Stan asked.
“Yes, Sir.” Roy was still cringing away from the man who would soon be his father-in-law.
“Even after what you were doing this afternoon?” Stan asked.
Sarah felt bad. What they’d been doing wasn’t that wrong. Maybe she’d overreacted a little, okay a lot. Still, she knew that Roy and Ashley had gotten dangerously close to lines that shouldn’t have been crossed.
“Well,” he stammered. “I guess that would depend on your definition of worthy.” That was a really lame answer. Roy cowered away from Stan.
“I’m not sure if you’re remorseful for what you were doing wrong or sorry you got caught,” Stan said quietly. “I want to give you the benefit of doubt, but I’m too close to the situation to judge properly. I may be the bishop to everyone else in the Howell Ward, but in this circumstance, I am merely Ashley’s father. I’m too skewed in my opinion because of the fact that this was going on under my own roof and with my daughter.” He wasn’t yelling, not even close, which made his statement that much more menacing.
“I really am sorry, bishop.” Roy said.
“I’m sorry too, Daddy,” Ashley whispered. “It won’t happen again.”
“I should hope not,” Stan rose from the chair where he was sitting. The message was clear; the conversation was over as far as he was concerned.
“So,” Ashley looked up at their dad. “Can I marry him?” It was kind of a sweet and innocent thing to ask, and a little old fashioned.
Sarah knew their dad had very little control about what his adult children did, but it seemed to melt his countenance that his daughter valued his opinion enough to ask for his blessing.
Stan reached down and pulled Ashley up off the couch and into his arms. He took a deep breath, holding his little girl likely wishing he could keep her that way forever. He had to let go and allow her to grow up. Her life was in God’s hands now… and Roy Peters’ apparently.
“You need to get some counseling from the stake president in preparation to go to the temple,” he said quietly. “And I would suggest you do that as soon as possible. But yes. You can marry him; if that’s what you think you want.”
“It is what I want, Daddy,” Ashley cried with excitement. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Now Ashley really looked like a little girl, and Sarah shook her head. Ashley jumped out of their dad’s arms, crossed the small amount of space between herself and Roy, and threw herself into his arms.
“How soon can your parents get a plane ticket to Michigan?” their dad asked Roy. He glanced at Sarah again and grumbled, “Never had to deal with this with Paul or Caleb.”
“Just wait until I meet the right guy…” Sarah said to her dad.
“Heaven help the man who falls in love with you, princess.” He patted her on the shoulder as he walked out of the room.
Sarah glanced down at her perfect manicure, in such stark contrast to everything she’d grown up with on the farm. Yep, it was going to take a special guy to marry her.
Book Club Discussion Questions: Do you remember these characters from The Farmer's Daughter? I promised one of my readers that I'd have Mending Fences published within a year of The Farmer's Daughter. We have until May 21, 2021. Do you think I can make it?