Anna’s hands guided the needle through the fabric square as her eyes took in her surroundings. Joanna had brought her to Mary & Caleb’s home for a quilting. The big kitchen table was ringed with chairs and covered with cloth, scissors, needle, and thread. In a corner rocking chair Sarah nursed her baby boy Gabriel, while Rachel paced and jostled Esther on her hip. Giggles and thumps came up from beneath the table and the sound of running feet thundered up the stairs. The chill December air had driven all the children indoors and they chafed at their confinement. The smell of a roasting turkey drifted from the oven and a vegetable soup was cooking slowly on the stove top.
Anna’s stomach churned. It had been two weeks since that day at the minister’s home and she had been sick each day. She’d had nothing but peppermint tea and toast for a few days. She had wanted to stay home to read the journals, but Joanna had insisted she come along. “Quilting is the best place for gossip! As the midwife, you’ll be expected to know things without being told them.” So while her fingers worked the needle, Anna listened to the women around her. Baby Tabitha gurgled from her mother’s lap. Mary jiggled one leg to gently bounce the babe as she giggled with the others about the possibility newly married Ruth might already be expecting. “Now, now,” Joanna intervened, “If she is I haven’t been told. And I ought to!” Mary and Lisette, Micah’s widow, laughed. Ruth blushed brightly and hid her smiling face behind her quilt square.
Anna noticed that Rachel was quiet. As she moved into the light, Anna could see that Rachel’s face once again showed bruising. Everyone knew that sometimes a man wasn’t gentle with his wife, but it seemed Rachel’s Daniel wasn’t gentle often. When Micah had been alive, he had encouraged men who were quarreling with their wives to stay with family or with him for a few days so that cooler heads might prevail. As far as Anna knew, David had extended no such offer to be peacekeeper. So much of Micah’s leadership had been in small, personal acts, in knowing who was close to anger and guiding them away from that temptation. His absence was already deeply felt.
“They say the new minister’s bought himself a piano and a new car,” Leah down at the other end of the table was saying. “And that we won’t have money for the tax man now.” Lisette stopped laughing and turned toward Leah. “Who says this then?”
“People! The men. My father-in-law. You know he helps the minister. Well he says this new minister is spending the money Micah would’ve saved.” Leah looked pleased with herself, like a barn cat who’d caught a mouse. Lisette spoke clearly and slowly. “Leah, your father-in-law should be more careful what he says and who he says it to. And so should you.” Leah looked down, and for a few moments all was awkward silence. Then a dog sneezed in the hall, and the children laughed at the dog, and glad to be startled out of the silence, the women laughed at the children.