Jenna Owens finds, love, happiness, family and sorrow.
Peggy Jo and Suzie were at the house when Jenna entered. Peggy Jo had platinum-blonde hair and always dressed with flair. She wasted most of her time reading the latest fashion magazines and calling all over the state to see which stores had the items in stock. She married someone twice her age because he had money and would buy her all the expensive things she wanted.
Peggy Jo was always upbeat, talking nonstop about anyone and everyone. She was the town busy body, making sure she knew everything that went on. She had no problem airing everyone’s dirty laundry. Jenna never understood what her mother saw in the woman. It was impossible to get a word in edgewise once Peggy Jo started babbling.
Suzie, more tranquil and Peggy Jo’s sidekick had light-brown hair and eyes and usually found everything Peggy Jo said amusing. Her entire body shook when she laughed. The pair was like night and day, but somehow had remained best friends for years. Watching the two of them was always irritating for Jenna.
“Jenna, how was your day?” Mother asked as she came through the door.
“Fine. Is it all right if I go out tonight?”
Suzie and Peggy Jo looked at one another, their eyes bulging. “Oh, you have a hot date, huh. It’s about time,” Suzie said under her breath.
“Are you going out with Noah?” Mother perceptively asked.
“Noah? Noah, who?” Peggy Jo drawled.
“Noah Prescott, he’s very nice,” Jenna stated, hating the way she talked.
Peggy Jo slapped her hand in the air as if an annoying fly were buzzing around her. “Honey, there isn’t much you can do with nice.”
“Peggy Jo,” mother scolded.
Peggy Jo and Suzie laughed hysterically, while Jenna marched down the hallway. Even with her bedroom door closed, their laughter flitted in and penetrated Jenna's ears. Jenna undressed and showered, wearing a sundress because of the heat, and put her long, brown hair into a ponytail. After applying some makeup she was ready, nothing left do, except wait anxiously for Noah to arrive.
Her parents sat in the living room smiling, trying to act normal.
“Jenna, you’ll wear a hole in the floor if you don’t stop that,” Father said, shaking his head and chuckling at his daughter’s nervousness.
“Leave her alone, Terry. She’s a little anxious about her first date,” Mother said standing. She walked over to Jenna, took her by the arm and led her into the back bedroom closing the door.
“Jenna, I know you’re excited, but I want you to be careful. If he tries anything that makes you uncomfortable, pick up the nearest phone, and I’ll come get you.” The serious tone of her voice made Jenna smile. Mother’s cheeks were even redder than normal, and her light green eyes were wide and serious.
“Mom, Noah’s very sweet. You don’t have anything to worry about.” The doorbell rang, and Jenna squealed with delight.
“Jenna, calm down. You don’t want him to know how thrilled you are about asking you out. You have to act like you do this all the time.” She slowly opened the bedroom door.
Jenna took a deep breath and walked out behind her. A brief moment of panic reached the pit of her stomach, and she prayed she wouldn’t make a complete fool of herself.
Father and Noah stood near the front door, talking.
“There she is now,” Father said.
“It’s nice to see you, Noah.” Mother smiled politely and shook his hand.
Butterflies took off in Jenna’s stomach and she couldn’t wait for the date to finally being. Eighteen long years of waiting for her first date. Looking at him standing in the doorway made her heart lurch and her breath catch as her mind raced wildly. This was really going to happen. Jenna wanted to run out the door and rush through a green field of tall grass, reveling in its earthly splendor. Excitement coursed through her veins and made her heart pound in her chest.
“Make sure you’re home before eleven,” Father said, looking at them both.
“Yes, Sir,” Noah said backing out of the doorway.
Jenna kissed her parents and followed.
“You look beautiful, Jenna,” Noah said, opening the truck door.
“Thank you,” she uttered. She climbed up into the truck and wished she could control her rapid heartbeat.
He got behind the wheel, and they sped to town the music from the radio the only sound. He parked in front of the diner and they walked the short distance to the theater. It had four screens, with three new pictures playing and one classic movie.
“What would you like to see?” he asked.
She hated horror so that was out, the action movie she’d heard was awful, and since they just missed the start of the other new film, there was only one choice to make. “Casablanca.”
The second the word left her mouth, she regretted it. He was a man. Men didn't want to sit around watching sappy romances. Why hadn’t she thought first? She should’ve picked the action adventure, or dealt with the horror flick. Her inexperience was showing. She hated the feeling of dread that filled her mind as she waited for him to say something.
He smiled, “I thought you’d say that.” He paid for the tickets, and they went inside and sat down near the back.
During the movie, Jenna repeatedly glanced at Noah, trying to see if he was enjoying the movie or was wishing he could somehow escape. This could very well be her first and last date with him, and she prayed that she hadn’t already screwed it up. Noah tilted his head to the side as his eyes focused on the screen. She watched his lips lift in a slight smirk at a funny remark from the actor, and then he lifted the plastic cup up to his lips and took a drink. She couldn’t help staring at him; he was fascinating.
“Is something wrong?” he whispered leaning to the side, keeping his eyes to the screen.
Jenna shook her head and turned back to the screen focusing on the movie. Toward the end of the movie, Noah put his arm around her shoulder. At first, she froze shocked by the close contact even though she’d been hoping for it, then relaxed and smiled up at him. He was so handsome. Could it be possible that he was attracted to her? No one ever gave her a second glance, let alone asked her on a date or tried to help her out in any way. It was hard to believe that suddenly someone became interested.
By the end of the movie, Jenna was fighting the tears to no avail. Noah turned to her, his eyes full of warmth, and wiped away the tears with the pads of his thumbs.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“It always affects me like this. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, and I cry every time.”
“A good story will do that,” he whispered and smiled.
They stood and left the theater with his arm still around her. Noah talked about his family, the youngest of three boys, and the last one living at home. His two brothers had married and started their own families, but they were in constant contact.
“What would you like to do now?” He stopped and faced her.
What should she say? If she said home, it will look like she didn’t have fun, if she says somewhere else, like the diner, he’ll think she wants him to spend all of his money. She hated not knowing what to do. “Why don’t we go back to my house and talk?”
He smiled, reached down for her hand and headed toward the truck. The silence was back on the drive to her house and he hated it. He wished he knew why she always clammed up when they were together. Would she always be this way when they were alone together?
“Let me tell my parents we’re back, and then I’ll be right out,” she said, before turning and disappearing inside the house.
Noah walked to the back of the house, remembering what it had been like to play here as a little boy. Since no one had fencing, it was one huge field, surrounded by woods. He came here regularly to catch snakes and frogs with his brothers.
Noah stepped out from behind the clothes pole and smiled. Jenna walked over to him, and he reached for her hand, and led her toward the edge of the woods.
He turned Jenna toward him, their faces just inches apart and leaned forward to kiss her.
She closed her eyes in expectation and waited for him to make his move. He pressed his lips against hers gently, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her against his chest. He could feel her body begin to tremble in his arms, and wasn’t sure if it were excitement or fear.
Noah broke the kiss and looked down into her upturned face. “Jenna, I want to get to know you better. Every time I’m with you you’re so quiet, I don’t know if you like me or not, so if you don’t, let me know now.”
Her silence was like a slap in the face. Better to find out now if he were wasting his time.
“I really like you, Noah. I’m sorry I get so quiet, but you’re the first boy to…”
Her words stopped while he waited and recognition hit him. Noah was stunned. He’d thought maybe that was it, but just couldn’t believe it. He was the first person to come along and take her out, probably to kiss her, and she’d responded back to him. He wasn’t a virgin, but now he knew that he had to take things slow with her, if he pushed too hard and fast, they wouldn’t have a relationship at all.
He brought his hand up to stroke her cheek and she smiled. “It’s all right, Jenna. I’m glad you told me.”
He took her hand and together they headed into the woods. In darkness, the moonlight blocked by the tall trees, he pulled her close again. Her sudden intake of breath broke the stillness of the warm night. Noah bowed his head and pressed his lips to hers. Jenna’s hands gripped his hips, her fingers digging into his waist. She began to relax as Noah reached up for her face. The feel of her soft skin beneath his fingers sent his pulse racing as her lips parted and he slowly pushed his tongue into the warmth of her mouth.
Jenna broke the kiss and stepped back. Her ragged breaths filled his ears. “Sorry,” she whispered. Noah reached out, grabbed her shoulders and pulled her into his arms. He held her close for a moment as his body throbbed. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought. “I’ll walk you back.” He took her hand and led her through the trees and into the large field. The back porch light was on, casting a yellow glow as if leading the way.
“I’m glad I saw you yesterday,” he said just before reaching her house.
Jenna looked up into his face. Her eyes filled with questions. He didn’t understand why she just didn’t come out and ask him things. Instead, she remained silent and didn’t comment on what he’d said. Could she really be that shy?
“Why are you looking at me that way?” he asked.
She blushed and stared at her feet. Noah gently lifted her chin, moved closer, and kissed her again. Her lips were soft and moist, as his teeth nibbled on her bottom lip. Once her mouth parted, his tongue slid inside and she gasped at the intimate contact. Her arms moved to his shoulders and pulled him closer. Her breast pressed into his chest and the throbbing in his groin began again.
He broke the kiss and smiled down at her swollen red lips. “I’d better go now.” If he stayed any longer, he’d have her down on the ground and strip her out of that sexy dress. He wanted her, as he’d never wanted another.
The following morning, Jenna jumped out of bed and started cleaning the house. Mother smiled and gave her funny looks, but she pretended not to notice. This was a first, especially since it didn’t take any prodding.
After that, she dressed for work, eager for Noah to pick her up so they could spend time together, even though the drive to the station only took ten minutes. She sat on the porch, waiting impatiently for his blue truck to appear. When she saw it approaching, she jumped up off the porch and ran to meet him. He grinned, and her heart soared. Could he be just as excited?
“Hi, Jenna. How are you today?”
“Good. Thanks for asking.” She opened the door and hopped inside. Her heart began to pound as if she’d just jogged a mile.
He leaned over and kissed her cheek, threw the truck in gear and drove off. When they pulled off the gravel road and onto the main street, he turned so fast that the tires squealed, and Jenna slid across the seat closer to him.
Noah put a CD into the player and turned it up so loud she couldn’t hear him talking. Had she not looked at him, she wouldn’t have a clue that he was saying something to her.
“Do you have to turn it up so loud?” she shouted.
“What?” He yelled back.
Jenna shook her head laughing, and then Noah turned the volume down.
“Why do you have the music so loud?” she asked.
His left eyebrow rose and he snuck a quick glance at her. “It’s The King.”
Jenna shook her head at the Elvis reference. Even her parents called Elvis the King and constantly played his records. Jenna didn’t realize that Elvis was Noah’s favorite singer, but she should have. When he picked her up on the side of the road, it was blaring out the windows, and he played the CD on the drive to town the night before too.
He pulled into the station and parked in the back. Before Jenna got out, Noah planted a quick kiss on her lips. Most of the day she looked to see if he was sneaking glances, and she was thrilled that he was.
Tiffany smiled, aware of the situation, but kept it to herself. Jenna found it impossible to hide her true feelings, everything being so new and exhilarating. She had her first boyfriend, and everything in her life seemed better.
After work Jenna waited by his truck. Noah turned the corner, then broke into a run headed her way, picked her up, and swung her around. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held on tight as her feet dangled.
“What’s put you in such a good mood?” Jenna asked, laughing at his enthusiasm.
He set her down with a smile. “You—I can’t stop thinking about you.”
Jenna stared into his eyes, and then his lips came down on hers. The pressure of his hard, insistent mouth left her tingling all over. Noah opened the door for her, and she slid across the front seat, as he got in right behind her. He drove to her house, laughing and talking, making plans for another evening together.
That night, as Jenna prepared for a second date with Noah, she dressed with extra care. She wanted him to look at her and think she was beautiful, kiss her a thousand times, make her heart beat fast, and bring happiness into her life with the joys of first love. Is she wrong to be expecting so much?
“You look very nice, Jenna,” Mother said when Jenna appeared in the living room.
Father looked her up and down, only nodding in approval.
That night, Noah drove to the beach. They sat on the hood of his truck watching the sunset as slow Elvis ballads droned from the radio. It was the first time she’d been to the beach after dark. She dreamt of going there with someone special, watching the sky change from day to night, and was finally doing it.
When the sun dipped into the water, Noah put his arm around her.
“That was so amazing,” Jenna whispered.
He glanced at her and kissed her hard on the lips, sending those butterflies dancing in her stomach. When he pulled back, she gazed into his sepal eyes and felt her body instantly become warm. The stars glistened in the night sky and a gentle breeze lifted his hair off his forehead. The lapping of the water on the shore had a calming effect. He gently stroked her cheek, and then moved closer as her desire for another kiss grew stronger.
Jenna had longed for someone to kiss her passionately. Would Noah be the one to make her dreams come true? Would he say the words she has always wanted to hear? The never-ending questions had a way of taking over.
“Jenna, are you all right?” he asked, breaking into her reverie.
“I’m fine as long as I’m with you.”
He grinned and pulled her to his chest. She felt so warm, and fit nicely up against his length. He wanted her, could feel himself growing with need. It was too soon, he wished it wasn’t, but she was a virgin and he wasn’t going to mess this up. It was too perfect right now. He held her tight, waiting for his body to calm down.
No one had ever responded to him quite the way she did. It was unbelievable that she’d never gone out on a date, or kissed anyone until now. How is that possible? Was she so into school that no one noticed her? Even though they were in school together, he didn’t remember much about her. He’d been busy with his friends on the football and swim teams, had girlfriends, most of whom were his age. He knew of her, but never really talked to her until the other day on the road.
“It’s getting late,” he said. “I don’t want your father to be upset if you miss your curfew.”
“I guess so,” Jenna uttered, holding him tight against her.
Noah kissed the top of her head. “We’ll do this again soon.” He liked spending time with her. She didn’t demand that he take her places and spend money on her. She didn’t complain about her parents and friends. She didn’t talk about shopping and television shows. Jenna Owens was different, and he couldn’t help but want to be with her.
“I had a wonderful time with you tonight, Jenna,” he whispered into her ear. He nibbled her lobe, put tiny kisses on her neck, breathing in her flowery scent. This was heaven. He tugged her chin as her lips parted, and then he took her mouth. She clung to him, deepening the kiss and pressing her body to his. He had to be the one to stop it again.
He broke the kiss and smiled. “Maybe we can spend Saturday together.”
Jenna sighed, and looked away from him. “I usually work at the ranch with my father. Maybe I won’t go.”
By mid-August, Jenna had fallen in love with Noah. They spent all their free time together going to the movies, the beach, or driving around—anything to be with each other. In the next few weeks, he would start his third year of college. Jenna envied him for having the one thing that was out of her reach.
Noah tried to talk her into applying for a grant to help pay for the tuition, but her father was dead set against paying the government one more penny for anything. He constantly preached that they took enough now, that college should be free for those who wanted to go.
Jenna desperately wanted a college education. She had a plan. She was getting up early to make breakfast for them, and then intended to slip college into the conversation.
She tiptoed around the house that day, not wanting to wake them early, and made coffee and food. When they came out of their bedroom, they were surprised to see the table set and food steaming on the table, even coffee in their mugs.
Father sat and pretended the situation was normal, eyeing mother but barely looking at Jenna. She was counting on them to ask what was going on so she could easily bring up the subject, but it didn’t happen, so she only had one choice left.
“I have a question to ask both of you,” Jenna began. “I hope you’ll give me a chance to get everything out before you answer.” She looked from one to the other.
Father set his fork down, folded his hands, placing his elbows on the table as he stared at her.
“Noah’s going back to college in a few weeks, and I really want to go, too. He assures me I can get a grant to help pay for my tuition. This is something that concerns my future.”
Terry glanced at Tess, his face unreadable, then at Jenna. “Do you need me to take you to campus?”
“Before you say no….” She stopped in shock. “What did you say?”
He smiled. “If this is what you want, Jenna, we don’t have a problem with it.”
She jumped to her feet and ran into his arms. “I can’t believe I’ve been terrified to mention this for a week! Thank you for being so understanding.” She kissed his cheek and squeezed him tight.
“Did you really think we’d stand in your way?” Mother asked.
How should she answer that? “I was a little afraid because I know how tight money is.” Jenna sat back down.
“Don’t you worry about a thing,” Father said, standing up and ready to leave for work. He kissed his wife, and then winked at Jenna before he walked out the door.
Jenna called Noah, hoping he’d drive her to community college to enroll for the fall semester. Excitement rushed through her as she waited for him to arrive. Finally, she had the chance to go to college and become something. Now she had a new problem, she didn’t know what to major in.
When they reached the college, the sheer size of the campus astounded her. It was like looking at the Larkin Ranch without all the livestock, stables, and equipment. Noah took Jenna to the administration building to meet with a counselor and get her paperwork together.
After filling out the application and forms, they headed to work. Jenna found it hard to concentrate on sales. All thoughts were preoccupied with college. This was a chance to make something of herself, to find out who she was, what she wanted, and what direction her life would take.
Noah took Jenna to the beach to celebrate, and she couldn’t wait to be alone with him again. When he parked the truck at their new spot, she jumped out, took off her shoes, and ran through the hot sand, feeling so free and alive. The strong wind pushed against her chest and she fought to walk forward. Her hair whipped around her face as she trudged on. Suddenly exhausted, she cheerfully collapsed on the sand.
Noah had the radio blasting as he watched, smiling as Jenna picked herself up and rushed back over to him. “I’ve never seen you so lively.” He held out his arms.
Jenna laughed, “I’ve never been this happy in my life!”
“I forgot to tell you something.” Noah leaned over the truck bed. “My parents are having a barbecue for Labor Day, and I want you to come and meet everyone.”
Jenna was suddenly nervous about that prospect. She had only met his parents briefly because they were leaving when she and Noah arrived at the house. Now he wanted her to meet the rest of his family. What would they think of her? If they didn’t like her would it cause problems in their relationship?
“If my parents don’t have anything planned, I’ll be there,” she said, putting her arm around his shoulder.
They sat on the truck, gazing at the night sky. Hoping to see a shooting star so they could make a wish was turning into a new ritual for them.