“It’s a good job, Mom.” Melissa pushed another pile of clothes into her suitcase and strode back across her room. She had barely unpacked the jeans and sweatshirts from college before loading up slacks and professional blouses. She hesitated as she held up her favorite Brigham Young University sweatshirt then shoved it back in the suitcase along with her nicest pair of jeans. “Don’t you want me to have a good job?”
“I just want you to be happy. Is this really the life you envisioned for yourself?” Jan Dalton, Melissa’s mom, sat on the edge of her twin bed. She glanced around Melissa’s childhood bedroom and fidgeted with a loose thread on the comforter. “Working at a hardware store?”
“Farm and Tractor Supply is hardly just a hardware store! We provide premium quality supplies to the rural community in a way that no other store can compete with. I’ve worked for the company all through college and we’re farmers for heaven’s sake. You and daddy have practically raised me to have this job.”
“You sound like a walking commercial.”
“I’m passionate about what we do.” Melissa held up two pairs of shoes, one that went with every dressy outfit she owned, from church clothes to work slacks, and the other a casual pair of loafers. She tucked them both in her suitcase and threw in her work boots for good measure. Then she realized she should have a grubby pair of jeans and flannel shirt as well. That led to a few of her favorite t-shirts. Before she knew it, she had re-packed half the clothes she’d brought home from college.
“But being a store manager is a huge responsibility,” her mom said.
“I’ve been an assistant store manager for almost two years, and pretty much ran the place while Donna was on maternity leave. I know what I’m doing, and I’m excited to transfer over here.”
“But rural Michigan is not the same as Utah.” Her mom shook her head and sighed.
“I grew up in rural Michigan. Right here in this house. On a farm. With farmers, remember?”
“Northern Michigan is not the same. You’re heading south. They’re different down there.”
“It’s beautiful down there. Rolling hills to the west. Open farmland to the east. Corn fields and sugar beets as far as the eye can see. My new office overlooks a pasture with horses so beautiful it takes your breath away. At my interview, I felt like I had finally found my home.”
“But it’s so desolate,” her mom whispered, apparently forgetting that Lowell was a suburb of Grand Rapids, the second largest city in Michigan. “How are you ever going to find a husband all the way down there?”
“That’s what this is really about, isn’t it?” Melissa stopped packing and sat on the bed next to her mom. “You’re still upset that I’m not marrying Andy.”
“He was a good man. Your refusal devastated him. He would have made a fine husband.”
“He didn’t love me.” Melissa felt the heat rush to her cheeks. “And I didn’t love him.”
“You did at one time…”
“He only wanted me as a trophy wife, to show me off. He called me ‘Eye Candy’ to his friend. I heard him say it. I don’t want to be sought after just because I’m beautiful. I want to be loved for who I am on the inside.”
“You can’t get around that, Melissa.” Her mom’s brow furrowed. “You’ve always been a beauty, and you’ll always be my gorgeous little girl. Your looks will always be the first thing men notice. It’s inevitable. But I understand your frustration. I’m sure when the time comes, you’ll meet someone who will see inside and fall in love with your fiery, confident personality… he may need to be blind…”
“Well, gee, maybe there’s a blind guy down there just waiting for a fiery, passionate, confident farm girl.” Melissa nudged her mom with her shoulder. “You know, I’ve prayed about this decision. I know this is where God wants me to be at this time in my life, and I’m going to keep my beautiful green eyes open to the possibilities. But I’m honestly not looking for a husband right now. I’m just going to have fun living with my cousin, going to church with her every Sunday, letting her drag me around to meet every young single adult in the Grand Rapids area, enjoying my new job, and finding my place in this world. Finding a husband will have to wait.”
Melissa stood up and finished packing, ignoring her mom until she finally left the room.
* * * * * * * *
“Blasted!” Troy kicked the tire on his no-till planter, where his drive chain had jammed right at the edge of the field. He crouched down and picked up the piece of broken glass that had been the culprit. The late-morning sun warmed his back, reminding him that his perfect day had just been ruined by some irresponsible kids throwing beer bottles in his fields again. Troy mumbled under his breath, “Seeds won’t get in the ground without a working drill.”
Troy waved to his brother in the next field over, holding up his roller chain. Craig climbed down from the tractor and came over to investigate the broken links. “Guess we’re gonna need to make a trip into town.”
“I don’t have time for this!” Troy hauled back his arm like he was going to chuck the piece of glass as far as he could throw it, then stopped himself at the last second realizing that wherever it landed would cause more problems at a later date. Instead, he tucked it into the pocket of his jeans, brushed off his hands and started toward the truck. His eyes lifted to the clear, blue sky and he started grumbling. “Rain’s going to be here in a day or two and I won’t have my beans in the ground. This is just perfect. Can’t get a break.”
“You need to relax.” Craig rushed to catch up with him and laid his hand on Troy’s shoulder, slowing him down. “We’ll get done in time.”
“You’re just glad we got your fields done yesterday.” Troy pushed his brother’s hand away and climbed into the driver’s side of his new Ford F-450. The keys were already in the ignition. This far out of town, anyone close enough to steal his truck was probably related to him and wouldn’t dare. He cranked the ignition and let the purr of the engine lull him out of his bad mood. The new car smell rushed from the air conditioner, reminding him what a good choice he’d made at the dealership. He reached up and ran his hand along the dashboard.
“You know, if you would just marry Becca you wouldn’t need to have an improper relationship with your new truck.” Craig raised his eyebrows and smirked suggestively.
“I don’t wanna marry Becca.” Troy ground his teeth together, and pouted.
“You know she’s the girl father chose for you…”
“I don’t care,” Troy said. He put the truck in reverse and backed out of the drive. “Don’t I get a choice in the matter?”
“That’s not the way it works in the Mennonite church,” Craig reminded him. “It’s time you grow up and accept your responsibilities as a Brother in the faith.”
“I’m not ready to grow up yet.” A devious grin threatened the corners of Troy’s mouth. Troy put the truck in gear and peeled out of the drive, fishtailing the back end of the truck and spraying gravel over the edge of the field.
“Geesh! Let me at least get my seatbelt on!”
Troy knew his brother wasn’t really mad at him for driving like a daredevil. The smile plastered on Craig’s face as he held the grab-bar above the door told Troy everything he needed to know. He cranked the steering wheel back and forth one more time, leaving ruts in the field behind him.
“Dad’s going to kill you!” Craig hollered above the country music blaring from the stereo.
“It’s my field now, I can do with it what I want.” Troy hollered back.
“Dad’s been cultivating those fields longer than we’ve been alive, and when are you going to grow up and quit listening to that horrible music?”
“I’ll grow up when I’m good and ready.” Troy smirked over at his older brother. “You were just as much a rebel when you were my age.” Craig smiled back and they raised their arms, bumping fists in solidarity.
“Good thing you don’t have a family to feed. You’d be taking better care of your soil.”
“That reminds me—” Troy reached over and turned off the radio, knowing his brother would appreciate it. His speed slowed to a more reasonable fifteen miles per hour over the speed limit and he creased his eyebrows. “Is little Jesse feeling better? Did he get over his cough? I’m sorry I forgot to ask this morning.”
“You’ve been a little distracted,” Craig acknowledged. “Yes, he’s fine. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a little homemade chicken soup and Jessica’s loving arms.”
“Must be nice to be married.” Troy sighed. He did want that. He just didn’t want it with Becca. He couldn’t understand why no one else in the community didn’t see that. She was more like a sister to him. He wasn’t even remotely attracted to her in a physical way. Yet, she followed him around at church, dropping hints about how nice his house was coming along and how she couldn’t wait to see what it looked like on the inside. It was like she, and everyone else, was just assuming that one day he would turn around, look down into her big brown eyes, and realize that she was the perfect girl to come and sew some curtains to hang in his new kitchen.
“Watch it, little brother!” Troy snapped out of his daydream soon enough to swerve back off the shoulder of the road. “You won’t live long enough to get married if you don’t learn how to drive.”
“I’ll show you how to drive.” Troy grinned and sped up again, making it to Farm and Tractor Supply in record time.
Book Club Discussion Questions: See any conflicts?