Thursday, January 15, 2015

Love Means... Endurance

The next, and possibly final story in the Farm series, Love Means... Endurance, releases on Friday January 16. This story returns to Geoff and Eli, the original couple with a struggle that will test their love and their strength.    We also return to the single open thread that has been there through the entire series.  Eli's family.  I really hope you enjoy this story.  It is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but for me as I wrote the story, it was worth the ride. 


Together for over ten years, Geoff and Eli built a fulfilling life. Their love and support helped raise their adopted son. Their hard work and dedication grew their farm from raising cattle and boarding horses to expanding into therapy riding sessions. Surrounded by a loving circle of friends, Geoff and Eli couldn’t ask for more. Until driven Eli loses his energy, and the doctor gives them the dire diagnosis of cancer.

Caught up in never-ending doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and treatments, their world turns upside down. With so many people dependent on them, they must pull together to put on a brave face, continue living as best they can, and care for their family. Geoff fears Eli, the love of his life, while a fighter, may not endure this battle, but neither is willing to consider succumbing as an option.


“Papa, I got Strawberry’s stall cleaned out,” Jakey called.
“I’ll look at it and help him with the rest of his chores. You do what you need to.” Geoff knew Robbie would take care of what he could in the office. The rest could wait. He kissed Eli quickly and walked to Strawberry’s stall. Jakey had done a good job of clearing away the soiled bedding. They had him do that stall because it was the smallest and didn’t take too long. “Okay. That looks good.” He turned to smile at his son, resting his hand lightly on his shoulder. “I’ll bring in the sawdust, and you can spread it for him. Then you and I can feed and water all the horses.”
They got busy. Geoff hauled, and Jakey spread. Then Geoff helped him carry water and fill all the troughs. He also explained to Jakey how much hay each horse got, and they cleaned out mangers and refilled them with fresh hay.
“What else do I have to do, Dad?”
“You need to sweep the center aisle of the barn, and do a good job. Then you can go inside to finish your homework at the kitchen table. Once that’s done, you can call your friends.” Geoff checked around the barn. “When they’re over, you remember the rules?”
Jakey nodded seriously. “No playing around the horses. Stay out of the paddocks, and no one is to go up in the hayloft.” He paused. “And don’t let them ride Grace—she is not a pony.”
“Very good.” The last time they had been up in the loft, he’d found opened bales and piles of hay that had been used to make forts. That wasn’t going to happen again. “They can come over after Papa is done with his therapy riding, so you’ll need to ask him what time he thinks is good. But you have to have your homework done first. So the sooner you sweep and get it done, the sooner you can call your friends.” Geoff was firm with Jakey, though he always made sure chores and homework were rewarded in the end.
“I will, Dad,” Jakey said, rushing to the tack room. He came out with the broom and walked to the far end of the barn, then started to sweep with a vengeance. Geoff grinned at his energy and figured it was best to help him get some of it out constructively.
“And watch out for the horses as Papa’s students arrive.”
“I will,” Jakey said without looking up. He was heads-down sweeping. Geoff knew that would last about ten minutes, so he checked all the stalls, spot-cleaned the worst spots, and hauled out the mulch. The great thing about spring was that the horses spent more time outside, so there was less cleaning to do. By the time he was done, students had started arriving, and Jakey was reaching the front door of the barn. Geoff checked on his work and helped Jakey pick up the sweepings. They never just swept it outside. It was best to pick it up in case anything got swept up that shouldn’t be there. They had found tacks, bits of plastic, and other debris that was best gone forever and not tracked back inside.
“You did very well. Go see Robbie after your homework and he’ll pay you.” Geoff believed in paying Jakey for his work, just like everyone else who worked for him. His father had done the same, and it had helped Geoff learn the value of work. It also meant that as he got older he didn’t feel like an indentured servant, the way some of his classmates in school had. His work had been valued, just like Jakey’s was.
Jakey hurried to put the broom away and then ran toward the barn door.
“Jakey,” Geoff said, and he slowed to a walk without stopping. Once he was outside, he took off toward the house and immediately disappeared from sight.
Eli’s students began to arrive, and the barn filled with their voices as they saddled their horses. Geoff checked that Eli didn’t need anything before going to his office. The one thing about a farm was that the work was never done, even office work. There were books to be done, herd records to be updated, invoices to pay, and money received and payments to follow up on as well as plans to be developed and updated.
Jakey was at the kitchen table with his math book open, working on his problems, when Geoff came in. He looked over Jakey’s shoulders as he worked. Since Eli had freed him of the burden of showing his work, Jakey was filling in the answers one after the other, and they were all correct. They definitely needed to speak to his teacher. It didn’t take Jakey long before he held up the page for Geoff to look over. It looked good to him. He nodded, and Jakey closed his book and put it in his school pack.
Geoff went to his office. It wasn’t necessary for him to listen as Jakey called Mark and Juan to ask them over.
Robbie was busy working at his desk, headphones over his ears. Geoff knew he was listening as a computer voice guided him. There was also an embosser attached to the computer so Robbie could print out what he needed in Braille. He and Robbie had worked together for years, and Robbie had a real knack for coordination and detail. Most people, when they arranged for lessons or classes, had no idea that Robbie couldn’t see. Geoff went to his desk and got to work. He sent Robbie a message to tell him that Jakey would be in to be paid and how much. It seemed dumb to text when they were in the same room, but it allowed Robbie to stay focused, and he’d listen to it when he got a chance.
On weekends he tried to be done in the early afternoons so he would have time with the family. He’d been working about an hour when Jakey rushed in, breathless.
“Robbie has your money,” Geoff said.
“Daddy,” Jakey gasped. “Papa fell in the barn. Uncle Joey said to get you.”
“Is he hurt?” Geoff asked as he stood and came around the desk. Robbie had taken off his headphones and was listening.
“He fell and isn’t getting up,” Jakey said, and Geoff heard the panic in his voice.



jean hart stewart said...

Sounds like a gripping story... Who wouldn't want to know more? Lots of luck...

Tina Donahue said...

Congrats on your upcoming release, Andrew. Your stories are always so heartfelt and rich with emotion. I'm sure this will be another winner from you. :)

Fiona McGier said...

Wow! You don't shy away from difficult topics, do you? Talk about reaching into your reader and drawing out emotions buried deeply. No one who has ever loved wants to have to deal with the big C.

Good luck with what looks to be a tenderly told story of how loving families cope.