“This guy sounds kind of dreamy,” Jaimie said, teasing Melissa as they drove to church on Sunday.
“Dreamy? Really? What decade are we living in?” Melissa chuckled and looked away but whispered under her breath. “But yeah. He kind of is…” She was enjoying living with her cousin but had barely seen her since she’d moved in on Monday.
Melissa had been at the store from the time it opened until the time it closed every day all week, trying to acclimate herself to the way her new building was normally run. So far, she hadn’t seen any major changes she wanted to make to their work environment. The previous manager had done a good job of keeping things running smoothly and Melissa believed in the philosophy of not trying to fix what isn’t broken.
“Are you nervous that he isn’t a member of our church?” Jaimie asked. “Does he even go to a church? Maybe you should invite him to come with us next week.”
“We haven’t talked about religion at all.” Melissa played with the hem of her blouse.
“You turned down a perfectly good returned missionary at BYU to come home to Michigan and marry a country boy from the middle of nowhere.”
“One, I’m not marrying him! We met less than a week ago.” Melissa snapped her head toward her cousin, heat rushing to her cheeks. “And two, Andy and I were not in love. I’m not going to marry a guy just because he’s a good guy. You sound like my mother.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Jaimie taunted. “Your mom told my mom that he was just marrying you for your body and good looks.”
“I don’t even think he wanted my body,” Melissa admitted. “He just wanted me on his arm at social events.”
“I think I want to find a guy who wants me for my body. Twenty-five years is a little long to wait for… you know… some action.”
“Jaimie!” Melissa reached over and smacked her cousin’s leg. “You’re scandalous!”
“What? You saying you’re not looking forward to rolling around in the hay a little with your cute farm boy?”
“Stop!” Melissa turned away and bit her lip, trying not to smile. She tried to compose herself. “I have dated farm boys most of my life and I have never once wanted to…”
“Never once?” Jaimie smirked.
“Okay, okay, I felt a little heat from Troy last week when he was holding my hand in the parking lot at the store.” She spoke really fast and tried to pretend she didn’t know her face was turning beet red. “But that was the first time! Ever.”
“Yes, ever!” Melissa tried to stop smiling, but it wasn’t working. “We are on our way to church for heaven’s sake. You need to stop talking about this.”
“Don’t worry,” Jaimie said, turning her car into the church parking lot. She blinked her eyelashes innocently. “You can just repent of your impure thoughts while you’re taking the sacrament in a few minutes.”
“You are so bad.” Melissa laughed and reached into the back seat for her purse and scripture bag. The whole conversation gave Melissa a reason to reflect on the way she and Troy had gotten to know each other. They’d connected on a deeper level because they’d taken a step back to really talk. Texting all afternoon, holding hands and walking together, talking about everything and nothing. She was falling for him. Hard.
“Seriously though,” Jaimie pointed out. She reached over and put her hand gently on Melissa’s arm. “Don’t you think it’s a little telling that Troy is the first guy to make you feel this way?”
Melissa bit her lip and smiled softly. “Yeah, maybe it is.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Want to go for a drive in the country after church?” Melissa wagged her eyebrows and grinned conspiratorially at her cousin.
“Let me guess, you want to drive down to Pratt Lake? Do you even know where he lives?” Jaimie climbed into her car and strapped herself into her seat belt.
“No, not exactly… well, not at all. I just want to get the lay of the land, so to speak.”
“Nothing but a bunch of Mennonite farms down that way,” Jaimie said. “But hey, he’s a farmer. He ought to fit right in, right?”
“Right,” Melissa said. “This is gonna be fun.”
They drove south out of Lowell, then turned east and wandered aimlessly, munching on granola bars and tortilla chips, windows down, breezes in their hair, gravel roads and a hint of corn rows popping up in freshly-tilled fields.
“Wonder if any of these fields are Troy’s,” Jaimie called over the noise from the wind.
“No way, Troy uses no-till farming. He would never expose his soil like this.”
“What do you mean?” Jaimie creased her eyebrows, glancing around at the beautiful fertile fields.
“It’s a way of drilling the seeds right into the ground without turning the soil over,” Melissa explained. “The no-till drill cuts right into last-year’s debris and puts the seed in place without exposing the topsoil. That’s how we met.”
“He snapped a roller chain on a broken piece of glass and came into the store for a new one.” Melissa saw up ahead an example. She pointed. “That’s what I’m talking about! See how the corn stalks from last year have been cut down but not pulled out of the ground? It holds the soil in place so it can’t blow away in the wind.”
“That’s really cool,” Jaimie said. They watched as a little family got out of their car and started up toward an old farmhouse. The two little girls and one little boy all ran ahead, and their mom and dad lagged behind, holding hands and walking more slowly. The girls and the mom all had homemade dresses and wore little white caps on their heads. “I once asked a Mennonite woman what the cap symbolized.”
“What did she say?” Melissa kept her eyes on the little family as they passed, even turning almost completely around in her seat to watch them for another few minutes. They were fascinating.
“She said the cap was to symbolize her submissiveness to God and to her husband.”
“What?” Melissa turned back to her cousin and her mouth dropped. “I can understand being submissive to God, but men and women are created equal.” She shook her head in disdain.
“Actually, you’re wrong.” Jaimie corrected her. “Men can’t have babies.”
“Ooh, you’re so right, Sista!” Melissa reached over and gave her cousin a little fist bump. “Girl power.”
“Girl power!” Jaimie shouted out the window. They were too far away from the farmhouse that there was no way the family could have heard them, but Jaimie gunned the engine, speeding away. Melissa reached her head out the passenger-side window whooping like a cowgirl.
They eventually wandered their way back to civilization and felt high on life as they headed home. When they pulled in Jaimie’s driveway, Melissa pulled down the vanity mirror and tried to tuck her windblown hair back down and pull it into a ponytail holder. It felt like coarse straw. She shook her head at the lost cause and instead smiled at her own fiery green eyes in the reflection.
“Girl power,” she whispered, shut the mirror, and walked into the house.
Book Club Discussion Questions: How do you think Melissa’s going to feel when she realizes Troy is a Mennonite?