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Charlie Chapter 1

Prologue

 

The night was balmy. A few fireflies lifted from the ground to flash and dance to the cacophony of crickets, cicadas, and the random howl of a coyote. On the wraparound porch, Hannah Garvin sat in the rocker that once belonged to her great-grandfather. It was at this time, in the dark of night, that she was acutely aware of the distinct possibility that she would be the last link of her once prominent and proud family farming in the panhandle of Texas. As she slowly rocked, the vision of her girlhood friend, Charlie, came to mind. She always did. Charlie was her one true friend, who knew her inside and out and loved her anyway. At least that was what Hannah thought until Charlie disappeared without a word. Her thoughts traversed memories of their times together.

 

 

Chapter One

 

The spring on the old wooden screen door moaned in protest, as Hannah used her hip to open the door. She was carrying a tray with three tall, plastic tumblers filled with ice and sweet tea.

 

“Here you go, Daddy and Mama, just the way you like it.”

 

“Did you make sure it has nuff sweetnin?” Sam Garvin asked.

 

“Sure did. You got extra, and Mama gets her special brew…one teaspoon of sweetnin.” Hannah carried her tumbler to the top porch step, where she sat leaning back against the railing. She looked out across a portion of the six hundred and forty acres of land they owned and took a long drink of her tea. “Looks like all the rest of the family have called it a night.” Hannah looked at her mother. “Mama, is there anything I can do to help you with all the extra people?”

 

“I don’t think so. I enjoy the boys and their families being here.”

 

“Okay, but let me know if it gets to be too much.”

 

Ada took a sip of her tea and smiled. “I don’t have my foot in the grave yet, so I think I can handle them.” Ada laughed.

 

“Thank god for that.” Hannah grinned.

 

“It’s fixin’ to rain,” Sam said.

 

“No way. That lightning is way over in New Mexico. It’ll peter out before it gets to the border.” Hannah gave her father a big smile.

 

“Mark my words, girly, it’ll rain tonight and tomorrow. Might even see some water in that disappearin’ lake.”

 

Hannah put her tea down and rested her elbows on her thighs. Every time someone mentioned the disappearing lake, she got the same uneasy feeling.

 

“You listnin’ to me, girly?”

 

“Sorry, Daddy, I was thinkin’ of somethin’ else. What did you say?”

 

“I said, you wanna make a bet on the rain?”

 

“What do I get out of it?”

 

“A day off.”

 

“And you have to take Mama and me out to that Dos Rios place for supper if I win.”

 

“Sounds like a win for me no matter what happens with the rain.” Sam laughed.

 

 

Later that night, a clap of thunder rattled the house. Big fat drops of rain could be heard pinging on the tin roof. Hannah woke, trying to catch the fleeting tendrils of the dream she was having. She closed her eyes and recalled that someone was calling her name and waving their arms to get her attention. That was all she remembered before she fell back to sleep. A few hours later, she woke to the smell of coffee and bacon. Hannah yawned and crawled out of bed, ready to start the day.

 

No day off for me. I heard that rain last night. Secretly she was glad. A day off meant entertaining her sisters-in-law and the nieces and nephew. Running after small children or holding babies was not her way to spend a day of relaxing. With a yawn and a sigh, Hannah headed for the bathroom and a shower.

 

“Mornin’.” Hannah entered the kitchen eager for breakfast.

 

“Good morning, sweetheart. Come, sit and join us. I just put the food on the table, so it’s hot.” Ada waved her over.

 

Bo and Mack and their families were visiting from Amarillo. The kitchen table was jam-packed with people. She nodded toward her dad. “How much rain did we get?”

 

“Nuff for you to lose the bet.” Sam grinned.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I heard the rain.” She leveled her gaze at him. “Shoulda known better than to bet with you, Daddy. You’ve been farming this land for almost forever.” She laughed. “You’d know if it’s gonna rain or not. How much did we get?”

 

“We got a little less than an inch of moisture.”

 

“Never thought we’d get anything close to that. I swear, I thought it was nothing but heat lightning off in the distance.” Hannah scooped some scrambled eggs on her plate, along with two strips of bacon.”

 

“Good thing you’re up.” Bo speared a biscuit from a bowl. “You need to go into town and pick up the order at Wilkerson’s.”

 

“Why me?”

 

“We helped moved the irrigation last night and you didn’t,” Bo said.

 

“We’re about out of hay and straw, along with chicken feed.” Sam looked at Hannah and grinned. “Besides, I need these big strong boys of mine to do some heavy liftin’.”

 

“Hey Sis, I’ll go into town with you,” Mack said. She could see his eyes pleading for her to accept.

 

“Don’t think so. Those city jobs made the two of you go all soft. You need to do some hard farm work like I do every day.”

 

“Are you trying to shame us?” Bo asked. “The way I see it, you chose to stay here, and I didn’t.”

 

“Alrighty then, I guess you told me,” Hannah countered, all the while grinding her teeth.

 

“Both of you stop this right now,” Sam bellowed. “Let’s enjoy our time together. I don’t want to hear anymore bellyachin’.”

 

“Sorry, Daddy,” Bo and Hannah said in unison.

 

Hannah looked at the floor and slowed her breathing, while clenching and unclenching her fist. The fact that both her brothers left home to pursue jobs other than farming had been a bone of contention between them for years. As the youngest by four years, she was left at home with no choice but to take on the duty. She was the only one to stay behind and help her parents on the farm. She shook her head and grabbed a couple of biscuits, before getting up and kissing her mother. “Do you need me to pick anything up for you or do you want to go along?”

 

“No darlin’, I’m going to Nelly’s to help with the quilt she’s making for her new grandson.”

 

The phone rang and Ada answered. “Hello. Oh Nelly, I’ll be there as soon as I clear the breakfast dishes… I’m sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do to help you?” She laughed. “Okay we’ll do the quilting tomorrow then. Bye for now.” Ada smiled at her daughter.

 

“That was Nelly. She took a tumble this morning and wants to do the quilt tomorrow. Guess I’ll be going to town with you after all.”

 

“Great. I welcome the company.”

 

“Patsy and Lucy, do you want to get the kids ready and come with us?” Ada was looking at Suzanna, Bo’s seven-year-old daughter. “What about you?”

 

The two daughters-in-law were darting glances back and forth between the brothers as if pleading for help.

 

“Ah, no I don’t think so,” Patsy, Bo’s wife, said in her heavy Texas accent. “Sammy is playing outside. He’ll need a bath before he can go anywhere.” She shrugged. “Sorry.”

 

“Jess is playing in the room.” Lucy rushed out of the kitchen, closely followed by Patsy.

 

Suzanna stood stock still. “Do you wanna go with us, sweetie?” Hannah asked.

 

“My daddy promised me that he’d take me for a ride on the tractor today.” She took a step toward the door, then walked rapidly toward it.

 

“Okay. Guess that’s a no. Looks like it’s just you and me, Mama.” Hannah smirked. “I do believe they are afraid of me.”

 

“Oh, stop saying things like that.” Ada swatted her daughter’s arm gently. “I doubt they think of Morton as a town they’d go to for their kind of shopping.”

 

“Yeah, you’re probably right. The lure of the city took the farm girls out of them.”

 

“Now you give me a few minutes to get ready, then we’ll have a mother-daughter day out.”

 

Hannah smiled and shook her head. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat back down, sipping her coffee and biting into a biscuit she’d grabbed earlier. Her mother would have to change her clothes, do her hair, and put on lipstick before she went to town. Hannah looked down at her long-sleeved, light-blue shirt and jeans. She polished her boots on the back of her jeans leg and nodded. “I’m ready to go.”

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