Beth was devastated as she sat in her room thinking about the funerals she had gone to this week. She could not fathom how two men's lives who were so closely touched were just gone so quickly. Her grandfather who she had spent so much time with for the last five years was gone and so was his best friend, Ralph.
Ralph and his family had owned the land next to their ranch and she had spent the last five years with her grandfather most of that time. Now her confidant and friend were gone and she was having a problem understanding how life could be this cruel. She shocked and upset that everything could change so quickly.
She had cried a lot the past four days and after everything she just fell raw from all of the emotion she had poured out. She walked in the house and was not disturbed by the quiet. Her parents were gone to a friend of theirs for a dinner and she had opted out. Her older brother had gone to his girlfriends and her older sister to her boyfriends, and her younger sister went with her parents. But her parents understood her need to be by herself.
She walked inside and heard the phone rang. She picked it up and spoke quietly. "Hello."
She blinked "Yes."
"This is Dan Peterson. I'm glad I caught you. Could you stop in my office tomorrow?"
She blinked and said "Uh…I'm in school tomorrow."
"I know. After school would that work?"
"Uhm. Sure. My parents too?"
"No, actually if you could not say anything I would appreciate it. Just stop in right after school and it shouldn't take long." She agreed to stop in and hung up the phone.
The following day she left the high school and drove to the attorney's office. She knew who he was, but not much else about him. She parked her car and blinked as she saw Adam Bailey step out of his pickup truck. Adam was Ralph's grandson, but he was at least seven years older than her own seventeen she thought. She turned and walked inside the attorney's office and saw Dan walk out.
"Hi Beth I'm glad you could meet so quickly." Dan turned and said "Hi Adam, thanks for coming in. If you two will follow me we'll make this quick."
She blinked as she followed Dan into his office. She wasn't sure why Adam was here, but she had a funny feeling.
"Thanks Beth and Adam. Let me get to the point quickly. We are talking about the will that your grandfather's had drawn up. This was drawn up ten months ago and was notarized and validated by the judge to be found sound and enforceable. The reason you two are here is a lot depends on what you both decide." The attorney pulled out a single paper and said "Upon the deaths of both Ralph Bailey and Judd Anderson it is hereby noted that certain issues of the will were to be read to Adam David Bailey and Beth Lynn Anderson the day before the will is to be read to the family of both of the individuals."
She blinked as she sat there. She glanced to her right and saw Adam lounging in the chair.
Dan looked at both of the people in front and said "The will in question comes with a decision that you both must make within twenty-four hours. Your families will convene here tomorrow for the complete reading of the will, but the outcome of the will depends on how each of you answers a question."
Adam said "Come on Dan. Stop talking in riddles. Just spit it out."
Dan looked up at both of them and said "The provision in this will that covers both of you is this. You have to decide on the following, a marriage between both of you that will ensure the land stays as is with the families keeping the land that they both own as is with you both owning ten percent of each land that your families currently live on. If you do not choose to marry each other then the land will be sold to the highest bidder. All of the land and that does mean the Anderson and Bailey land together will be sold."
She gasped softly as she heard the declaration. She didn't turn her head to see Adam's expression, but stared ahead.
Dan put the paper down and said "I know this is a shock to both of you. But your grandfather's had their reasons for doing this."
Adam finally spoke and said "Exactly what reasons would those be? Or did they disclose them?"
Dan looked up and said "Ralph had stated that he was worried about you ever having a family of your own. He said you reminded him very much of himself at the young age and he didn't want you making the same mistakes that he had and wait till he was too old to enjoy everything he could." Dan turned to her and said "Judd was worried about you Beth. He was afraid that after he was gone that you would get lost in the shuffle. This was a way for him to ensure that both of you if you decide to would be able to fulfill their dreams."
She looked down at her hands unsure about what to do.
Dan cleared his throat and said "To uh finish…if you both decide to go ahead with the wedding you will have." He looked at the paper and said "Fifty-five days to be wed and after your wedding date, you will have 365 days or one year to produce a child together. If you do then the selling of the land will thrown out. But I will need your answers tomorrow at the full reading of the will. If you decide to not go through with the wedding I will the following day walk over to the judge's chambers and get the papers signed so we will put the land on the auction block immediately."
She closed her eyes for a second and swallowed as he put down the paper.
"I know this is a shock, but tomorrow you will both need to give me your answers. Regardless of what they are."
A few minutes later she walked out and towards her parent's car. She started to open the door when Adam spoke to her.
"What are you going to do?"
She turned around and looked up at him. "Uh…I don't know."
"Are you going to say yes or let the land be sold?"
She looked towards the road. She felt way out of her league with Adam. He was older than her, but he was also more social than her by far. She had never been in the social crowd, much preferring to stay out of the limelight. Part of her reasons was her own self-confidence or self esteem. She wasn't built like her sisters or her mom for that fact. She was plump and had ordinary dark hair that was wavy and normally fell into disarray around her shoulders down her back. She often went for baggy jeans and t-shirts to hide her thick waist and rounded bottom and large chest.
She pushed her glasses up on her nose and said "What do you think?"
He looked down at the girl and said "That land isn't going to be sold. I don't care what I have to do. It has been in our family for years and years. I am not just going to let it go."
She swallowed at his declaration. "Oh."
"Just think about being responsible for land that your grandfather…my grandfather put their blood and sweat and tears into going to someone that isn't going to give a damn about it."
She got little sleep that night and couldn't concentrate the following day at school. She had talked to her parents and was instructed to be home directly after school. She got home and changed her clothes and put on a pair of khakis. She didn't say anything to her parents as they arrived. They were directed to a large meeting room and she was instructed to sit up by the lawyer as Adam was. She felt butterflies erupt in her stomach as the lawyer started talking.
When it was divulged that the day before two people were read parts of the will before anyone else there were some protest which were quickly quieted down after it was explained the complicated will. Her dad finally asked "So who was the ones that heard the will yesterday?"
Dan was standing and said "Adam and Beth."
She didn't raise her gaze as her name was spoken.
Her dad was quiet and then she heard Adam's dad ask "So…what exactly did they need to know a day before we did?"
Dan reached for a paper and said "This is a contract that they had to know about, because they are the only ones that can sign it. The stipulation for the land is this, Adam and Beth would have to be wed within sixty days of the last passing of either Ralph or Judd. If they agree to the marriage and are wed within the sixty days they also have to fulfill having a child within the first year of marriage. If they agree to do this the land will stay as is with the families except ten percent of each land will be given to them as a wedding gift upon their marriage. If they do not…the land from both families will be sold to the highest bidder and that land would be put on the auction block tomorrow morning at eight o'clock."
The gasps were loud and protests were louder and she didn't move as she listened to the harsh words spoken. She finally looked across from her and saw Adam staring at the contract in front of them and then glanced up at Dan.
Dan spoke quietly but it seemed to quiet the entire group. "The answer I need…Adam and Beth I need your answer now. Are you going to sign the papers for the intent to get married?"
She watched as Adam pulled the paper in front of him and signed it quickly and then put the pen down on top of it and looked at her. She felt herself flush and swallowed as the room waited on her answer. She felt almost sick to her stomach thinking about the situation she was in. She slid her hand over the table and pulled the paper towards her and picked up the pen and with writing that wasn't as legible as it normally was she signed her name.
She was in shock the next couple of days she didn't understand what was going on. She had came home from school one day only to be met at the house by Adam who had taken her back into town to get their marriage license. She signed the papers and within a half hour later was dropped back off at her house. Her parents treated the situation like normal and didn't say much and neither did the rest of her family.
She on the other hand took one of the horses and rode out to a pond she had loved and sat down on a log and cried. She cried for the loss of her grandfather and then the decisions she was being forced to make. She had an engagement party at the Bailey's next weekend that she dreaded going to, but most of the people around were going to be there. She finally felt better after she got a lot of the emotion out of her system.
She was not one to wear anything flashy or revealing so when it came to finding an outfit to wear to her own engagement party she was hard pressed to find something suitable. She finally decided on a pair of khaki pants and a nice knit shirt with a pair of sandals. She brushed her hair out and secured it with a barrette to pull it away from her face and applied a little blush to her cheeks and then some lip gloss.
Her older sister had tried to get her to let her put makeup but she had resisted. She didn't wear a lot and felt awkward with putting a lot on. She finally walked out of the house.
She smiled and talked to a few people as she stood around waiting for the events to take fold. She was nervous about what was going to happen and couldn't help the butterflies in her stomach. There were several people there she would guess easily over a hundred maybe closer to a hundred and fifty people around. She knew most of them, but felt out of sorts as she was whisked from one person to another. She was walking around the front and walked in thru the front door.
She used the restroom and was trying to figure out where she could exit again. She heard people talking and as she was almost to the kitchen she stopped and listened.
"Oh come on Adam. You can't be serious about marrying her."
Adam was leaning against the sink in the kitchen and took a drink of his beer. "Tiff it is a done deal."
She smiled up at him and slid her hands up his chest and said "Nothing is completely done. I think you should give me a chance…I know I can make you happy. You have to admit…I definitely would be easy on the eyes Adam. Come on…you can't tell me that you want to just give up everything you get to do, think of the parties and all. She's not even eighteen for god's sake. Why would you want to even contemplate going there?"
She bit her lip as she was wondering what he was going to say, but before he could retort she felt someone walk up behind her and then heard the door in the kitchen open. His mother's hands landed on her shoulders. "Oh hi Beth. Go ahead and go in the kitchen."
She slowly walked in the kitchen and the scene could almost be comical. Adam was leaning against the sink with a beer in his hand and Tiffany was leaning against him with her hands up on his chest. She looked over and saw her older sister grinning.
His mom walked in the room and asked "What's going on?"
Lisa, her sister said "I uh was just coming in to find out where the guests of honor were at. They are getting ready for the announcement outside…you two still are getting married aren't you?"
She clenched her jaw as the sting of her sister's barb cut at her. She swallowed and started out towards the door. She ignored Adam entirely and just walked outside. Her sister followed her out and as she got outside her sister said "You can't blame him Beth. After all you're only seventeen and hardly what he is used to hanging around."
She felt tears that wanted to flow get close, but instead of giving in she said "Thanks for the insight Lisa." She turned around and walked towards a friend of hers, Amy.
Before Lisa could start towards her sister, Adam who had followed them out and heard the stinging comment pulled Lisa back. "Easy girl. Pull the claws back in and go stand with Cam."
Lisa rolled her eyes and said "It's true Adam. She's nothing like you hang out with or hook up with. Tiffany is your norm."
He stopped from going towards his intended and looked at her and said "Like I said Lisa, put the claws back. I don't care where you're coming from, but you're talking about the woman that is going to become my wife. Give her some respect."
Lisa laughed and said "Me? I wasn't the one who got caught before you announce the engagement with a girl in the kitchen by not only your mom but your intended. Nice one Bailey." She turned around and walked towards her boyfriend.
Amy said "What is going on? You look like you're going to cry?"
She stood in front of Amy and said "Oh help me not please."
Amy reached for her hands and said "Squeeze my hands and close your eyes and count to twenty." She waited while her best friend did this and said "I'm assuming that the reason your bitch of a sister is looking smug has something to do with this."
Beth finally took a big breath and said "God I wish this was just over."
Adam downed the rest of his beer and rubbed the back of his neck as a friend of his stopped him. "When is it going down?"
Before he could say anything his mom and dad started hushing people. His mom finally spoke. "I'm sure you are all well aware of the fact that this party is in honor of my son, Adam and Beth Anderson."
Beth wanted to just drop off the face of the earth. She swallowed and said softly "Please just let me get through this."
His mom looked at him and said "It's all yours Adam."
He turned around and looked and found her and made his way towards her. He watched as people seemed to melt away and he walked up towards Beth. He knew after what she had witnessed she was upset and could still see it in her face although she was trying to mask it.
He grinned at her and looked around and said "Let's hope I don't screw this up."