The Midwife’s Apprentice (part 12)

Anna’s hands lay clutched in Joanna’s. The two sat on the squashed sofa in Anna’s cabin front room while a fire log crackled in the stove. The older woman was worried. “David’s nothing like Micah was. After Caleb stopped him from beating poor Luke, David went round to the men and got himself a few deputies, Daniel and the Baker brothers. Then they all went down together to Caleb and Mary’s farm. David told them he was taking 40 acres to give to Daniel, or he was taking their oldest daughter Leah for a wife. They gave up the land, of course. But now David’s having all the unmarried girls come by for interviews and he’s going to pick a new bride and have a son with her and we all have to hope that baby is a better minister than he is.”

Anna gripped her friend’s hands tightly in return. “Joanna, I’m pregnant.”

Worlds were born and died across Joanna’s face before she found words. “Who is the father?”

Anna dropped her hands to her side and looked at the floor. “David” she mumbled. “I didn’t want him to.”

Joanna took up Anna’s hands once again. “You must go,” she spoke fervently. “You must. You are my dearest friend Anna. I love you like the child I never had. You must protect the baby. You must go.”

Anna looked into the fire. Looking into Joanna’s eyes was too hard right now. “What if I don’t want the baby?” she whispered. “You can help me with that, can’t you Joanna? I’ve read hints of things in the journals. You know something, don’t you?”

Now it was Joanna’s turn to look into the fire rather than her friend’s face. “Yes. I know something, but it is dangerous and it may not work. But if David ever discovers what you’ve done, he’ll never forgive you and he’ll never stop punishing you. Do you want the baby?”

“I don’t know,” Anna spoke softly. “I don’t know what I want. I want to be who I have always been. I want to help women and their babies. I’m terrified of birth and I hate David for what I did to me. I know it’s a sin and I don’t care. I hate him.”

“Then I will try to help you,” Joanna said. “And no one needs to ever know. You can be who you’ve always been. You can be my apprentice and someday you will be the midwife. I need to get some things from home.”

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