The Farmer's Daughterby_Lynn_©
Note from Jake Rivers:
This is my fifth semi-annual "invitational." The initial one was based on the Statler Brother's song, "This Bed of Rose's." The second used the Marty Robbins El Paso trilogy: "El Paso" "El Paso City " and "Faleena." The third had stories based on the various versions of "Maggie May" or "Maggie Mae." The fourth invitational was based on any Country & Western song.
The current invitational is based on any song written or performed by Merle Haggard.
Jessie Trabert curled up on her sofa and thought back eight years to when she'd lost her mother.
"Mama, I'm done with my homework, can I please go to Becky's?"
"Are your chores done?" Agnes Trabert asked her daughter.
"Yes, Mama, I did them. Please Mama, can I go?"
Agnes felt the familiar pain start to grip her abdomen. "Sure, you go on and have fun."
She waited for the telltale slamming of the door to tell her that Jessie was gone before she gave in to it. Agnes knew she couldn't hide it much longer but she just didn't want her family to worry. Besides, the doctor already said the cancer was far enough along there wasn't anything they could do. No, telling them would help no one and only make the entire family upset. She wanted them to have a decent Christmas, if she had her way.
Jessie was a gangly fifteen-year old and full of energy. She'd hopped on her bicycle and pedaled a little over a mile to her friend Becky's house for an hour or so. Both girls loved to browse through the latest fashion magazines and imagine wearing the stylish clothing themselves. They wanted to go to college and find handsome boyfriends that took care of them. Giggles erupted when they thought about kissing. The girls had fun together but soon it was time for Jessie to go home.
The sight of the ambulance in the driveway at their house scared Jessie. She raced across the yard and jumped off her bike.
A police officer kept Jessie from going inside as she screamed. He led her to the porch swing and sat there with her, trying to calm her a little.
"Where's my mom and dad? I wanna go inside."
"Let's wait here for a bit, okay? Are you Jessie?"
She shook her head in confusion that he would know her name. "Yes."
"Well, Jessie, I'm Officer Swift and your daddy would want me to be sure you're safe out here, don't you think?"
"Is my daddy okay?" Tears streaked down her cheeks as all sorts of thoughts went through her head. "I want my mama."
Paramedics brought out a stretcher just then and Jessie scrambled toward it. Her father followed them out the door and saw his daughter.
"Jessie, I'm so sorry."
"Daddy, what's wrong? Where's Mama?"
"Honey, I came in from the barn and your mother ... I called for help right away, but ..."
She ignored his words and tried to get at the ambulance. "Mama!"
"Jessie, Jessie, no, don't," he yelled and grabbed her arm.
He'd held his only daughter then, as the ambulance drove off with his precious wife. The rest of the day was a blur for her but they'd gone to the hospital. There the doctor told them about her mother's cancer and that she'd known about it for weeks. Today she'd had a massive stroke and died instantly. She'd left them even before she thought her time was going to be up.
Jessie's father took over everything after that. It was hard for him to be both her dad and a mama, too. Raising a teenager alone wasn't easy but he made sure she knew how much he loved her every single day. Ralph Trabert vowed on his wife's grave that he'd never let her down when it came to their daughter. Jessie's father attended all of her school functions those last years. He was so proud when Jessie graduated in the top ten of her class. The years were tough, but they'd grown closer and made it.
She chose a college about five hours away from their home but still in Florida. Jessie was torn. Getting a degree was a dream of hers but leaving meant her father would be alone. They'd discussed it in depth before he'd convinced her he would be fine and she left. Jessie's four years of school seemed to fly past and soon it was time to graduate. Her father had tears in his eyes when he saw his only daughter receive her diploma. He looked to the sky where he knew his wife was watching over them and smiled.
Ralph went back home and Jessie stayed in the city. She'd made friends at school and found a secretarial job she enjoyed. A few times, she brought dates back with her for the weekend but her father always found something wrong with each one. Jessie decided it wasn't worth the hassle and gave up dating for several months. Then she met Erik.
"Am I supposed to know what all this stuff means?"
Erik heard the soft voice and stopped. He wondered what kind of answer the girl would get from what in his opinion were lame salesmen at this dealership.
"Torque, water fording, wheelbase, crosswinds, articulation activity, traction control, panic brake condition, electronic, mitigation ..."
He chuckled to himself at the obvious confusion in her voice.
"There's no way anyone knows this stuff," the girl muttered.
By now, Erik surmised she was alone and decided to offer some assistance. He knew quite a bit about the vehicles and thought it might be fun to help.
"You might not need to know all of that," he said as he rounded the front of the Jeep. "What's most important is do you know how to drive one on the beach?"
Jessie blushed when she realized she'd been overheard talking to herself again. She knew it was a bad habit of hers but she thought she was alone.
"Isn't the beach for people?"
"That depends where and when you go," he replied. "Take Miami Beach for example. There are people lined up on the sand from sun up to dusk. Inland you'll find less people. That's where you take a Jeep and play."
His broad wink made her laugh.
"I'm so sorry. Forgive my lack of manners. I'm Erik Corlett."
"Jessie Trabert," she said. "Do you work here?"
"No, I don't, but I do know a few things about Jeeps since that's all I've had for about ten years."
Erik studied the petite woman in front of him. She wasn't his usual athletic type but something in her eyes drew him to her. They wandered through the rows of new and used vehicles with Erik pointing out things he found to be pros or cons of each one.
"Well, Erik, thank you for trying to teach me a little today," she said when they reached her car.
He opened his wallet and took out a business card. "Here's my number if you have more questions. You can call me anytime."
Jessie read the name of the real estate company he worked for and whistled. "Impressive. I've heard good things about this company."
Erik grinned and nodded. "We do pretty well. Call me, Jessie. Soon, okay?"
Jessie smiled before she answered. "I'll do that, Erik."
He watched her drive off and wondered if she really would. Something about her intrigued him.
Jessie left the car lot and thought about the cute guy she'd just talked with. She hadn't wanted to seem too excited when he'd said to call him if she needed help but his offer thrilled her. Her father might be able to give her tips on shopping for a tractor or other farm equipment but that was about it. His whole life centered on making a few dollars from the small parcel of land he owned out in the country. A week passed before she dared take Erik up on his offer.
"Flynch Realty and Land Development, how may I help you today?"
"Erik Corlett, please?"
"One moment please, while I see if Mr. Corlett is available."
Jessie couldn't believe she was really calling him. She remembered how the wind tousled his blond hair that day and blushed. Would it look that way after she ran her hands through it, she wondered?
"This is Erik."
"Hi, ah, this is Jessie. Jessie Trabert. We talked last week and you said to call ..."
"Still confused about torque, are you?" Erik heard the hesitation in her voice and hoped the joking would help.
"That and so much more, Erik," she said and laughed.
Their conversation lasted over an hour and only ended when she promised to meet him for dinner. He named a popular restaurant she'd heard of but never been to. Jessie felt good that he hadn't offered to pick her up. She wanted to have her own vehicle there in case she decided to leave for some reason. He might not be as honest as he seemed, she told herself as she rummaged through the closet for something to wear.
She needn't have worried. Erik was the perfect date all evening. He talked about himself only when she asked and he didn't pry into her personal life either.
Erik chuckled now at those memories as he put his beer back on the bar. Jessie had not called for a week and he had just decided she was not going to. Later she had admitted to thinking she was not his type and that he had only made the offer to be polite. Apparently, a friend convinced her to give him a chance. A year later, they were inseparable and madly in love.
"You look like you can use some company," a soft voice said close to his ear.
He felt a body on either side of him and sighed. "I'm waiting for my lady, sorry."
"We can make you forget your lady."
Erik made eye contact with the bartender and shook his head.
"Ladies, I think the gentleman gave you his answer," Joe said to them.
"Shut up, Joe, we aren't talking to you," the one on Erik's right replied.
"Let's not make a scene, ladies." Joe cocked his head toward the bouncer as he spoke.
"We just want some fun with this hot hunk of meat."
"Get your hands off my man." Jessie stood a few feet behind Erik and glared at the two hussies pawing at him.
Joe arched his eyebrow at Jessie and grinned. He recognized her and decided to let her handle this on her own for now.
"I'll give you twats ten seconds to leave," Jessie said in a calm voice.
She never flinched when one of the girls flung her glass of beer behind the bar. Erik remained seated and did not say a word.
"Five seconds, bitches."
The two girls, both well on their way to being drunk, turned to face Jessie.
"Who the hell do you think you are to tell us what to do?"
Taller than Jessie, the speaker took a wobbly step closer and raised a fist at her.
"I'm the one that's going to kick your ass if you don't get out of my face," Jessie said as she stared at the brunette.
Erik realized that the blonde had slipped away without saying a word. He looked into the mirror behind the bar and saw her squirming in the arms of the bouncer. She wouldn't be sneaking up on Jessie at least.
The voluptuous brunette laughed and made a move toward Jessie. Erik heard the gasp from the rest of the patrons and was almost afraid to turn around. He'd figured the drunk would walk away and didn't think anything would really happen.
"Jessie!" he called out expecting to see her on the floor.
"Hi, honey. Joe, I'll take a beer." Jessie moved up next to Erik and kissed his open lips.
Erik saw a couple of the bar employees dragging the tall brunette out the door. Blood trickled out of the corner of her mouth.
"What the hell did you do to her?" His shock was evident in the tone of his voice.
"I might have forgotten to tell you about the class I joined at the gym ..."
He laughed at the look of pride she had on her face at that moment. "I think you did but it's all right."
"I'm quite certain it's established now that you're my man."
"Yes, it is. But I knew it all along."
A cheer went up throughout the bar as Erik pulled her close and kissed her hard.
"Let's go," Jessie murmured when they broke apart.
Erik tossed some bills on the bar before he took her hand and led her toward the exit. Once outside, they remembered each had their own vehicles when Erik turned to his left and Jessie went to his right.
"I have to pick up a few things at the store anyway so I'll just meet you at my place," Jessie said.
He watched her drive off then went the opposite direction to her apartment. She'd given him a key several months ago, so he let himself in once he'd parked in the space reserved for guests. Erik put on some music and just relaxed as he waited for Jessie. A knock at the door a few minutes later surprised him. He checked the clock then peeked through the small window before opening it.
"Mr. Trabert, come in. Jessie isn't here —"
"Why are you in her apartment if she isn't home?"
"We were leaving the bar —"
"Did you let her drive drunk?"
Erik sighed and took a deep breath. He knew that Jessie's father was only trying to protect her but he just didn't seem to give Erik a chance.
"She didn't have a drink at all. We met there after work and decided not to leave either of our vehicles in the parking lot overnight. Jessie had to get a few things at the store so I came right here."
"Seems to me if a man cared about a woman he'd go with her and be sure she was safe," her father said.
"Jessie's shopped there be—"
He glared as he cut Erik off. "A real man would go for her."
Erik ran a hand through his hair and closed his eyes. The loose blond locks hung below his shoulders as always.
"Can I get you something to drink?" Erik asked.
"I'll wait for my daughter, thank you."
Ralph sat on the sofa and looked straight ahead. He'd raised Jessie alone after his precious Agnes died. They'd struggled to make the old farmhouse a home but somehow they'd done it. Now he only wanted the best for his baby. It didn't matter if the man she dated was the richest in seven counties, he'd never be good enough.
Minutes passed and the silence went on. Erik wished he could find a way to get Jessie's father to accept him. There wasn't any one real reason he could think of that made the elderly man dislike him. The jiggling of the doorknob brought them both to their feet.
"Erik, oh my god, look," Jessie burst into the apartment as she spoke. "I bruised my knuckles when I punched out that girl."
"Honey, look who's here," Erik said just as Jessie saw her father.
Jessie blanched as she realized what she'd just said in earshot of her father. "Hi Daddy, what brings you out here?"
"Is that the type of behavior I taught you, Jessie?"
"Daddy, I'm an adult now. Besides, they were trying to pick up my man."
"Ever since you met him," Ralph said, "you've changed."
Erik heard the implication of disapproval in the words and looked at Jessie. They'd discussed her father's attitude before but never come up with an answer to get him to accept Erik. He just continued loving Jessie and hoped in time the older man would see his devotion to his daughter was real.
Jessie dropped her keys on the counter and turned to hug her father. She knew it was time to change the subject.
"It's good to see you, Daddy. I didn't know you were coming to town, though."
"I needed some tractor parts and thought I'd stay on your sofa tonight. That way I can get to the dealer when they open and head home right away. I won't lose as much time working that way."
"You could always stay with me, Mr. Trabert," Erik said from the other side of the room. "I have a spare bedroom all set up for guests. It's more comfortable than Jessie's sofa, I can tell you that for sure."
"I suppose I should be glad you know about her sofa and not her bed," Ralph replied and turned toward his daughter.
"Mr. Trabert, I love Jessie —"
"I'm tired from the trip here and need an early start. Jessie, I could use a shower before I call it a night." Ralph cut Erik off and walked away.
Jessie motioned for Erik to wait as she took her father down the hall. He heard her talking as they disappeared into her bedroom where he assumed she was setting him up in her shower. Erik knew Ralph loved Jessie and had struggled raising her alone after her mom died. He just didn't know how to make him understand he loved Jessie, too.
"I'm sorry." The soft words came from Jessie as she walked back into the room and stopped in front of him.
"It isn't your fault, baby. I should go before he's done."
Their lips met for only moments as both tried to contain themselves. Her eyes looked almost black in the light as they conveyed to him a message of desire and passion. Erik groaned when she swayed against him with her petite frame.
"Jessie," he murmured, "you're making it hard for me to leave."
"Hard is how I like it, Erik."
He claimed her lips again and crushed her body to his so she could feel just what she'd done to him. One hand slid under her shirt to brush her nipple through the thin bra covering the puckered tip. The sound of the water shutting off stopped him from going further.
"I'll call you when he's asleep," Jessie whispered into his ear.
"I love you, Jessie." Erik ran his knuckles over her cheek and gazed into her eyes. "Your father will see that some day."
Jessie just nodded. She locked the door behind him and sighed before getting some blankets for her father. If only her father could see the things in Erik that she did, she thought as she made up the sofa. He had so many good qualities, several that her father always approved of in other people but didn't see in Erik.
"Are you hungry, Daddy?" Jessie asked when she saw her father come out of her room.
"I stopped on the road for dinner but if you need something, don't let me interrupt."
"No, I'll be fine. Maybe we can have breakfast together before you leave in the morning?" Jessie hoped her father would stay since she planned to ask Erik to join them.
"That sounds good, since the supplier doesn't open until nine anyway. Then I can get back to the farm and repair the tractor tomorrow and only lose one day of work."
Ralph gave his daughter a hug and went over to the sofa. "Goodnight, Jessie."
"Daddy, he's a good man. He's kind, generous, and polite and above all, he loves me for who I am. I wish you could see that."
"No one is good enough for my baby, Jessie. I don't care who he is."
Jessie didn't know what else to say. It seemed she wasn't going to change her father's mind with her words.
"Night, Daddy. I love you."
Father and daughter went to their separate beds and slipped between the sheets. Jessie waited until she heard the soft sound of snoring from the living room and picked up the telephone to call Erik. He answered after only one ring.
Only a few minutes passed before Jessie hung up again. It took much longer for both of them to fall asleep.
Getting up early was a habit that stuck with Jessie from living on the farm for so many years. Her father still woke first the next morning and had coffee going when she walked into the kitchen.
"Morning, Daddy. I thought maybe you'd sleep in a bit since you didn't have to cook your own breakfast today." Jessie grinned at her father since she knew he always woke up early.
"I'm too old to change my ways, you should know that," he replied and chuckled.
Jessie thought about his attitude toward Erik in relation to that statement and decided to bring it up again.
"I've been seeing him for a year already, Daddy. What must he do to prove himself to you?"
He didn't reply for several minutes. Just as he started to speak, a knock on the door interrupted him.
"That's Erik. I invited him to have breakfast with us," Jessie said as she went to the door.
Ralph sipped his coffee and watched as the young man hugged his daughter. He took in the long blond hair and the surfer look of the city boy and sighed. At times like this, he really missed his Agnes to guide Jessie.
"Good morning, Mr. Trabert," Erik greeted as he walked further into the room.
"Erik," Ralph replied.
Jessie looked at her boyfriend with beseeching eyes. He felt her irritation but wasn't sure what to do.
"So, Mr. Trabert, how do you like your eggs?"