Falling for the Flyboy(8)

By: Trish Milburn


“Was that Mrs. Thompson’s brother?”

Tilly’s voice startled Amanda so much she dropped her scissors. The girl hurried to pick them up. “Sorry I startled you.”

Amanda forced a small smile. “It’s okay. I guess I’m just not used to anyone being around. What did you ask me?”

“If that was Mrs. Thompson’s brother outside.”

Amanda discarded the scissors and slipped two pieces of velvet under the sewing machine needle. “Yes. Their grandparents used to live here, and he wanted to walk around the farm.”

“I’ve never met him before, but when I worked at the school one summer, Mrs. Thompson talked about him a lot,” Tilly said.

Amanda concentrated on sliding the cloth through the machine, desperately wanting Tilly to stop talking about Cameron Blue. She wanted to forget he was anywhere nearby.

“She’s really proud of him. He was a hot shot Air Force pilot, one of the Thunderbirds.”

Pain shot up Amanda’s arm like a hot skewer had been stabbed through her finger. She blinked hard and took a deep breath to keep from passing out as she looked at her hand. Blood pooled around the puncture made by the sewing machine needle firmly imbedded in her finger.

~





CHAPTER TWO


Cam closed his eyes and breathed deeply of the crisp, fresh North Dakota air blowing across the prairie — and almost believed he was nine years old again. That was the year of the great Blue family camping excursion.

Janet had come home from the last day of school before summer vacation terribly excited by an idea planted firmly in her head by Mindy Skarland. Cam could still see her pigtails bouncing as she spilled forth the story of how Mindy’s family was headed west for a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park. Janet had never known anyone who’d taken a real vacation before, and she’d thought the idea perfect for her own family.

Only one problem. No money. Cam had only been in fourth grade, but he’d known what the pained expressions on his parents’ faces meant. He’d heard them talking in hushed tones about how they were going to squeeze enough out of the bank account to pay the bills.

He could still hear his mother’s apologetic voice as she’d stooped to look Janet in the eye. “Honey, I’m afraid we can’t take a vacation. We don’t—”

“Why of course we can go camping,” Grandpa Blue had said from the kitchen doorway.

He and Gram had come over for dinner, and Cam’s mother had looked stricken by the hasty assertion.

Gramps had made good on his promise, however, the very next day. It wasn’t Yellowstone, but their grandfather made the admittedly short trip even better than those far-off wonders.

“You don’t want to go to Yellowstone anyway,” Gramps had said to a still sad Janet as he set up a makeshift tent made of Gram’s sheets on the bank of the Cedar River. “There’s bears running wild out there. You don’t want a bear to eat you, do you?”

Janet shook her head. It took a while for her to warm to the idea of camping on her grandparents’ farm, but through their grandfather’s efforts her smile returned within a few hours. For an entire weekend, the Blues played baseball in the pasture, roasted hot dogs over a fire, skipped rocks across the little river, told ghost stories by firelight and had the grandest vacation Cedar Bend had ever seen. They hadn’t witnessed Old Faithful’s mighty spouts of water, but they’d had each other.

Cam sighed and sank down onto the grassy slope by the river, really no more than a creek in some parts of the country. He’d long since come to terms with his parents’ divorce, had grown into a staunch realist, but a part of him still yearned for those happy days before droughts, floods and bankruptcy split his family apart.

He leaned back into the grass and stared at the warm hues of sunset streaking across the sky. It was so quiet here, the only sound the gentle trickle of the river as it passed him on its journey to the much bigger Missouri. The breeze brought him the scent of grass and cattle — scents that rooted him firmly into the North Dakota soil.

His thoughts strayed to the owner of what should be his new home. What kind of soil did they have in Georgia? How had Amanda Perry ended up in Cedar Bend when most people tended to migrate in the opposite direction to warmer climes? Her wary expressions and stiff posture forced him to consider that while she might not be rooted to this farm like he was, she wasn’t just going to up and leave because he wanted her to.