Range stood beside the casket. He waited for friends and family to say goodbye to his precious wife. He chuckled to himself because as precious as she was, she was fiesty. Tears slid down his tan leather face he quieted the sobs that he dare let go. When it seemed all the family and friends had gone , Range stepped closer to the casket and said “Caroline why did you have to leave me?” As if he could feel her touch his arms to say” my sweet guy, don’t cry for me, I will be with my Jesus and one day I’ll meet you there. “ He reached out to the casket and touched it gently then turned and nodded at the preacher. He walked to his truck got in and shut the door. It seemed to be a louder,lonelier,slam.
As he drove home he thought of the farm he inherited and how it became his and Caroline’s after they married 35 years ago. The green pastures that homed his cattle was quite a grand site. He no longer had to plant or harvest as he had employees who did most of the work, but every planting season and harvest Range wanted to be a part of.
His horses, now three of them, had space to roam. The huge red barn was Caroline’s idea. It was bigger than most in the county and maybe the state, but was deemed necessary by Caroline for horses, hay, and living quarter for farm hands. The barn now held Pops tractor and grandads plow. Neither was used, but sat in the barn with most importance.
Range thought of how the tornado plowed down the house, they rebuilt. Caroline fussed over every detail , such as windows, doors and open space. It was a rustic yet modern home they built together. However, it seemed lonely and abandoned when he pulled uptoday.
He stepped in the kitchen everything in order and clean. He walked on into the bedroom that he had shared with his precious Caroline and all that was left of her was medicine bottles and a closet full of clothes. Range laid on the bed and cried himself to sleep. Even a man of 55 could cry when the love of his life had passed.
He woke up at some point and sat on the edge of the bed and listened to his stomach rumble. Thunder sounded in the distance as rain fell on the roof. He headed into the kitchen for a sandwich. This was a normal diet of late with Caroline so sick. He flipped on the tv and watched the weather. Rain seemed to be in the forecast for the next week. Range hoped his crops would be safe.
He thought about Caroline’s duck family and hoped they were safe. She fed them every morning like children. She talked to mama duck like they were best friends. This mama landed on their pond and birthed three ducklings and Caroline mothered them. She had always wanted children but an early hysterectomy prevented that. She would cry for days when she would hear of her friends or family having new ones but precious Caroline would never show it to them. She would coddle whoever’s child that would let her.
Caroline’s parents came for her last days and the funeral but had to get back home for work. Her mother was crushed and Range wish he could have stopped the pain. Her mother Emily was as sweet as Caroline. Her dad Paul was a gentle guy and was broken at her passing. Range knew he was blessed by Caroline and her folks.
Range’s parents were gone. They had been killed in a car accident. His sister lived in town and worked as a nurse and was barely home. She was unmarried and he scarcely seen her.
Range finally went back to bed and wasn’t looking forward to morning.
Morning did come. Range knew he had to get out of his house, so he showered and left. He wasn’t sure where he was going but he knew he didn’t want to be alone. Rain had been falling all night he noticed some area flooding. His foreman would call if he was concerned for crops so Range didn’t worry.
Range didn’t want to think anymore. He needed food because it was nearly noon. He realized he had driven into Springdale. He was about an hour and a half from home. He stopped at a cafe and went in. There were about 10 other people dining. He took a corner booth and sat down. He look at the menu and order beef tips and coffee. The waitress was about mid 30s and seemed to know what she was doing. He listened to the chatter at other tables and knew this would not be his table at home. Sadness was creeping in again. He got his check and quickly left. He drove home with tears running down his face. He wondered what he was gonna do with his time now. He pulled his tuck in the garage . He sat for the longest time just not wanting to go back in the house.
Scarlet seen the pickup pull in to the the cafe. The truck had a hard plastic cover on it. She took Lucas’ hand and dodged behind other vehicles in hopes no one could see her. She opened the small opening and lifted Lucas into it. Then inched her way in and let it down easy and propped it with her jacket. They would at least need to breathe. She whispered to Lucas how much she loved him and told him that everything would be ok. When the man got into his truck and started it Scarlet sang to Lucas to keep him occupied and quiet. Rain had dripped in but was nothing compared to the night in the alley behind the cafe. When the truck stopped she hushed Lucas once again and waited for the man to get out. She worried that he would find them. Finally she heard the door open and the door close. She waited a bit more before letting herself out to look around. She was in a garage. But as she looked out she seen a barn. She then pulled Lucas and her bag out and they scurried to the barn. Scarlet prayed they didn’t have a dog. She mad it to the barn and took out her phone long enough to see where she was going. She found a door maybe it was an office. She flipped the switch on and the light came on and she quickly turned it out. It was a kitchen. Her light from her phone allowed just enough for her to find a couch. She made sure there were no spiders or bugs and then she curled up with Lucas and fell asleep.
About 12:40 Scarlet woke needing to use the restroom she was sure the owner would be asleep so she turned on the light and realized this was living quarters. It had a bed and bathroom she was amazed at how clean it was. She hurried to use the restroom and flipped the light back out. She moved her and Lucas to the bed. This was the first time in two weeks she had slept in a bed. She hadn’t seen the owner in about three day and all the food she had got was gone. She wondered what she needed to do. She heard his truck again and seen him leave. This was her chance get in, get food, get out.
Range was wore out from his grief. He finally went in the house. He went to his favorite chair and turned on the tv. He watched several episodes of Andy Griffith and some westerns. He must have fallen asleep. He woke up and looked at his watch “12:45.” Range said out loud. He got up and went to put on his pajamas. When he looked out the window he thought he seen a light on in the barn. When he looked again it was nothing. He brushed his teeth and got in bed. Silence was about to drive him over the edge. When Caroline was here he could hear her breathe he could sense her near, he could feel the heat of her body. Now He heard nothing. He only felt emptiness and sadness. “Lord, your gonna have to help me with this one. Thank you God.” He said into the emptiness. A short prayer but held so much meaning. Rain came harder and it almost sounded like hail.
The storm didn’t let up for 3 days it stormed like crazy. Range decided to go to the store for groceries and other items. Everything was still very clean other than his laundry which he would do this afternoon. Range figured he may need to learn to cook rather than sandwiches every day. He left the house and the sun began to shine so He took his time to get to town.