Chapter 36

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The car was full again. Mary stood to the side and hugged her father. Sara stepped forward and pulled her oldest child into her arms. The young woman towered over mother. Mary was four inches taller than Sara and looked just like at the age of eighteen.

"Are you sure you are okay driving by yourself?" Roy asked her.

"Yes, Dad. We have driven the route several times now. I can make my way there."

"Okay, be careful."

Mary slid into the car and waved as she drove away. Roy moved to stand next to Sara.

"Our little girl is off to college."

Sara nodded. "Hard to believe."

"Erick will be graduating from high school in the spring. Just another year and then Leslie will be gone."

Sara felt a pang of loneliness hit her. She nodded. To hide her tears, she turned around. "I need to get the last of the corn from the garden."

"Okay. I'll be in the barn fixing the milking pen."

Sara rushed to the garden and lost herself in the foliage. There she let her guard down and allowed the tears to flow. Never would she have thought she'd miss having her children around. She had never wanted to be a mother, but when she had she had found a purpose in life. She felt needed. Now they were leaving. She'd be completely alone soon with only Roy to keep her company when he wasn't working himself in the fields.

How had she changed so much? Oh, she still enjoyed being alone. She enjoyed the fact that the children were old enough to take care of themselves. Now she just washed their clothes, cooked their meals, and made sure they got to school on time. Mary didn't even need that anymore. They had become a vital part of her life and she had never even known it. She had come to love them more than she thought she could.

It wasn't that she had never loved them. She just never knew how. Love opened one up to hurt. Love allowed others to peer deep within you. She couldn't allow that. She had to keep those walls up. She had to protect herself. Yet they managed to sneak in and find a place within her heart.

She meandered through the garden and picked any vegetables that were ripe. The garden was much larger than the first one she had on Roy's parent's place. Now they had a farm of their own. Roy had bought it a few months before Leslie had been born. Over a hundred acres. One acre was devoted to her garden. She grew nearly everything a person could. Days were spent canning and freezing the extra. They would have stewed tomatoes and cream corn all through the winter months. How she loved the old farm house nestled beneath the large oak trees. Their children had grown up there and found safety they never knew they needed.

With the vegetables tucked into her apron which she pulled up to form a bowl, she stepped out of the garden and paused. Titling her head to one side, she heard the sound of the school bus turn onto the gravel road. Even a mile away, the noise carried. Erick and Leslie would be home in a matter of minutes.

Sara had just crossed the road that separated the garden from the main property and made her way up the embankment. There she paused. Grey hair pulled back under a kerchief, she waited for her children.

The bus rambled up the small hill to their house and stopped at the driveway. The doors opened. Erick jumped out and waved back at his friends on the bus. Leslie followed with a frown on her face.

"How was school?" Sara asked.

"It was okay," Erick replied. "First day is always crazy. Last year though." He stopped to give his mother a kiss on the cheek. At six foot, he had to bend over double to kiss her.

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