Frienemies

Chapter Six

It had been three days since Jason Gardner had been to the Jackson residence. It was planting and branding season. He had helped his dad get the livestock chores done, and had planted the seedlings of sunflowers around the perimeter of the vegetable garden. His mom had been seeding it the day Fawn had come over. Now he came galloping up to the the Jackson’s place, giving his horse his head, feeling the excitement of spring coursing through his veins. Plus, he wanted to see Fawn. I know she doesn’t belong to you yet, Lord, but I’m trusting You to work in her heart and save her soul. She will never know of my feelings until she realizes how much You love her. He pulled up to the hitching post outside the door.

Fawn was standing at the open door, grinning at him. “Did you give Garth the workout, or did he give one to you?” She laughed.

Jason dismounted easily, dusted his hat on his pants, and walked to the door. “Maybe a little of both,” he said, joining in her laughter.

Fawn opened the door. “There’s a tin cup hanging on the nail by the rain barrel. Help yourself. I pumped in fresh water this morning.” She held the door open, shooing flies as she waited for Jason to fill his cup.

Nana sat on the couch, rubbing her arthritic legs. “Come in and sit a spell,” she said, turning her head to welcome their neighbor.

“How’s yer ma?” Nana asked as they all sat down, Jason between the two ladies.

“Just fine, ma’am. Ma is working in the garden, making sure no weeds are sprouting up. We’ve had so little rain she filled a pitcher from the pump and started watering the seedlings just a trickle at a time.” His eyes twinkled with merriment. “I bet we’ll get some rain now.”

Fawn sat quietly for a few moments, letting the other two banter. Should she ask Jason to sit with Nana so she could look for work? Should she ask if Nana could stay with the Gardners if she did find work? Nana would definitely be resistant to that idea. She shivered involuntarily.

“Are ya cold, Fawn?” Nana asked.

“No, ma’am. I was just thinking.”

Jason was about to take a drink of water from his cup. He set it down and looked directly at Fawn. There was trouble in her hazel eyes. Today they were an olive green color with gold flecks around the edges. The tint of her freckles had deepened. “Fawn, what’s wrong?”

She told him about the break-in, the devastation. “I sold the wagon as you suggested and Senator Browning came and collected his rent. Jason, I have to have a job if we’re going to keep paying our bills, but I can’t leave Nana alone here after what. . .”

“Now you just wait a sugargum minute!” Nana interrupted. “I know what ye’re thinkin’ and ya kin jist fergit it. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. This is my home as long as we keep payin’ and I ain’t leavin’ it.”

“Mrs. Jackson,” Jason began. “You won’t have to leave here. We have two hired hands that live in our small bunkhouse. . .”

“No. I don’t need a babysitter. I kin shoot.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at the kitchen.

“Nana, you were hurt when our house got broke into. Someone came in here and did a lot of damage. You didn’t see the mess they made of the upstairs rooms.”

Tears formed in Nana’s eyes. Fawn hadn’t told her what had happened to those rooms but she had a pretty good idea. She knew how people felt about Native Americans. She could imagine what had been done to the blankets, pottery, and anything else Shawnee that may have been upstairs. The tears ran down her weathered cheeks. Although she herself was not Shawnee, her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter were. But she did not want to leave and she did not want strangers in her house babysitting her. What was she to do?

Fawn broke into Nana’s thoughts. She reached across Jason’s lap to grasp Nana’s hand. “I know you love this place, that it is your home. It’s my home too. It’s all I have ever known. But you are more important to me than this house or this land. Nana, I have to work or we will lose it anyway.”

Nana’s breast rose and fell with each deep sigh. Her shoulders hunched forward. Defeat etched itself into the creases that were smile lines only moments ago on her sixty-seven-year-old face. She nodded once, rose from the couch, placed a crutch under each arm and moseyed to her room.

Fawn lowered her voice and looked at Jason. “I need to find out who caused those hornets to swarm, driving Arctic Sun and the wagon into the creek. I need to know who ransacked this house and why. Jason, where do I start?”

“I’ve got some ideas. There have been some other strange things going on in this holler too. I’ll do some digging. Meanwhile, keep that shotgun handy, even when you’re going to the barn or the garden. Wherever you go, take a rifle or shotgun with you. Nana needs to keep one handy too. Maybe she can prop herself against the window or door if she needs to shoot someone.”

The finishing school had taught Fawn that a lady never reaches for a gentleman’s hand; she should always wait for him to start the gesture. She almost forgot. She started to move her hand forward, then caught herself and quickly tucked it back to her side. Instead, she lowered her head just a bit and looked up at him. “Thank you, Jason. I truly do not know what we would do without you and your family. Nana and I are grateful for your friendship.”

Jason twirled his hat in his hands. “We’ve been friends too long for thanks to be necessary, Fawn. We’re all neighbors looking out for each other. Somebody had to have noticed something. I’m going digging. Be back tomorrow.”
***

It seemed to be a week for visitors. Angel Browning came by the following afternoon. In typical Angel fashion, she galloped nearly all the way to the door before she jerked her horse to a halt and dismounted as if a pack of coyotes was after her. Fawn was already opening the door for her friend.

“Angel, what a great surprise to see you.” Fawn stretched both arms forward to clasp Angel’s hands in greeting. “Come in.”

Angel dashed strands of loose hair from her face. “You didn’t think I would stay away did you? I just thought you and Nana needed some time to adjust to life without your mom. May I have a drink of water?”

“Certainly. The tin cup is hanging on that nail by the rain barrel. Help yourself and come in. Nana is sitting in her room with her memories of Dad, Mother, and Gray. She may not come out today.”

“I’m sorry you two have to go through this. It’s part of the reason why I came.” She took a long drink from the cup. “I have a friend who knows some people in Pipestem. It seems the holler is in need of a teacher.”

Furrows etched themselves across Fawn’s forehead. “I’ve never been around any children except for Melanie and Lily Beth Gardner. I wouldn’t know how to teach.”

“Don’t be a ninny,” Angel quickly checked her tone of exasperation. “You know how to read and write. You can do basic arithmetic. How hard can it be?”

Fawn looked down at her trembling hands. She could be confident at home where she knew what to do and how to do it. Meeting strangers would put her in an uncomfortable position. “I can’t leave Nana,” she mumbled. “Someone has to be with her while I’m gone.”

Angel waved her hand in dismissal. “Nonsense. I heard about the break-in. I would be only too happy to sit with Nana. I can make tea and cook.”

Fawn looked at her friend. There was a look in Angel’s eye that she couldn’t quite fathom. “Thank you for your kind offer, but if I do get the position, who will stay with Nana while I’m gone? You know I would have to stay in Pipestem and take turns staying with various families in order to get to know the children.”

“Leave that to me. I have connections.”

***

As promised, Jason arrived later that afternoon bearing two loaves of homemade bread, a container of freshly churned butter, and a jar of apple blossom honey.

Fawn was in the garden behind the house so Nana hobbled to the door and opened it. “Jason, what a pleasant surprise. Come in and set yer bundles in the kitchen, then get yerself a cup of water.”

“Yes, ma’am. It’s such a pretty day today. Would you like to sit on the porch for a spell?”

“That would be nice.”

Jason did as he had been asked, then held the door for Nana to step outside onto the porch. There were four hand-made rocking chairs facing west. There were just enough white fluffy clouds to provide what would be a spectacular sunset later. He would be home by then.

“What brings you over today?” Nana asked.

“Bringing gifts from Mother’s kitchen.” His gray eyes twinkled as he spoke.

Nana rocked in her chair. Peace settled on her face as she watched the sky and enjoyed companionable silence for a few moments. Lord Jesus, thank You for Your many blessings, for kind neighbors, for health, and for what family I have left. Thank You, too, for this lovely weather. Amen.

Jason watched Nana’s expression. If only Fawn would ask Jesus to be her Savior, they could marry and he would be able to take care of her and her grandmother.

The back door slammed shut and the two people on the front porch jumped. “That you?” Nana called through the open front door.

“Yes, Nana. The door handle got away from me. I was just pulling weeds in the garden.”

“Come on out here,” Nana called. “We got comp’ny.”

Fawn noticed the bread,butter, and honey on the table and knew who had brought them. She quickly tucked loose strands of hair back into their coil and briskly went to the front porch. She chose a rocker to Jason’s left. Nana sat across from them.

Jason cleared his throat. “I told you I was going to do some snooping to try to find out what’s been going on in this holler.” He took a sip of water and drummed his thumb against the tin cup.

“I don’t have any proof of who is behind any of this. What I do know is that more than one person is involved. It seems that there has been a lot of fracking going on to determine if there is any natural gas in the area. That may or may not have anything to do with homes being vandalized.”

Nana banged the tip of her crutch on the porch. “That don’t give nobody the right to start attackin’ folks in their own homes.” She stomped the crutch again.

“We have to find out if all of this is related, Nana,” Fawn said.

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