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Authors: Lori Copeland

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BOOK: A Perfect Love
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Barbara cut off a length of the sturdy quilt thread, then threaded and knotted her needle. Only those women with well-callused fingers made good progress now, since one could only tell that the needle had pierced top, batting, and backing when it pricked a fingertip—over and over again. The women of the Women's Circle prided themselves on beautiful quilts with tiny, evenly spaced stitches, and God bless the woman whose stitches didn't pass inspection.

Barbara ran her left hand under the quilt square in front of her, then bent her head to concentrate on her work.

“Seems half the town was down with the flu week before last,” Edith commented.

“Ayuh,” Vernie responded, “I still have a bit of cough. Suspect it will linger a spell.”

General conversation continued as the ladies bent to their work, fingers flying and eyes intent upon their stitching. They discussed the unseasonably warm weather, Christmas, New Year's (when Floyd had ripped the fire engine siren at midnight), and Annie's tomatoes.

Dropping her needle, Vernie stretched and rotated her shoulders. “Edith, is that a new hairstyle?”

“Yes, it is. I decided I was tired of looking at the same old me in the mirror. So I called Nadine at the Snip and Clip and told her I wanted something new.”

“Well, it looks good,” Cleta said. “A perm?”

“Ayuh, but not one of those tight ones. I wanted something loose and—” A charming blush colored the pastor's wife's cheeks—“a little frivolous.”

Cleta grinned. “It makes you look years younger. Maybe I should give Nadine a call.”

Vernie stood, then tapped Barbara's shoulder on her way to the coffeepot. “How's the lobstering these days, Barbara?”

“Doodles isn't feeling very talkative today,” Cleta said, smiling at Barbara. “Are you, hon?”

Barbara shook her head.

Edith tucked her needle into a quilt square. “Well, I don't know about you gals, but I'm ready for a break.” Standing, she looked toward the refreshment table, where a plate of cookies waited beside the coffee machine. “Are those fresh goodies, Birdie?”

“Oatmeal and raisin,” Birdie chirped from the other side of the quilting frame. “Abner made them, so they're extra good. He says he's not going to tell me what he used to make them so moist. I suspect applesauce, but he made them while I was out, and he delights in keeping me guessing. He does the same thing with the molasses cookies.”

Edith bit into one of the treats, then rolled her eyes. “Heavenly!”

“I thought so. Wish I could cook like him.”

The women laughed.

“Speaking of Salt Gribbon,” Cleta began.

Birdie blushed. “Were we?”

“No, but I want to,” Cleta said, grinning. “How are the wedding plans progressing?”

Birdie smiled down at her work. “Very well, though we've had a few disagreements about how formal an occasion it should be. If Salt had his way, we'd stand on a rock outside the lighthouse and say our vows with only Pastor Wickam present. But I want a little more than that. Not fancy, mind you, but I'd rather have people throwing rice than sea gulls circling overhead.”

The ladies exchanged amused looks.

“April can be chancy weather-wise,” Bea pointed out. “Getting married on a rock is definitely not a good idea.”

“We ladies would like to help decorate the church,” Cleta offered.

Barbara stitched, saying nothing while the conversation ricocheted from the bride's colors of peach and teal, to tapered candles versus the fragrant, chunky variety, to bows on the pews or simple greenery.

Edith lowered her voice. “How's Salt's son doing in that rehab place?”

Despite her own misery, Barbara leaned forward. Everyone on the island had been astounded when Salt Gribbon's son, Patrick, appeared at the Christmas Eve service. Over the holidays the young man had played with his children, made peace with his father, and agreed that he needed help. After a short investigation, Salt and Birdie had found a wonderful rehab center for alcoholics, and Patrick was currently undergoing therapy and treatment.

“He's doing fine, I think,” Birdie said, keeping her eyes on her stitching. “He's not allowed to call but once a week. But we're praying for him, Salt and I. The kids are praying, too, and we have every confidence he'll be out in time for the wedding.”

“I hope your wedding won't conflict with the Puffin Days bazaar,” Vernie said. “And while
we're on the subject, let's think about what we're doing. The quilt has proven to be a good moneymaker, but we need something different. Can we think of some new event, booths, or games to make Puffin Days more profitable and more fun?”

“Profitable is good,” Olympia said, “but we need to think of some way to keep the kids from being so rowdy! I don't know where the parents were, but last year by the time Puffin Days was over my flower beds had been trampled so badly they all had to be replanted. I simply dread the thought of all that destruction this year.”

“Maybe short fences would help,” Edith suggested. “Those white plastic things that can be put down and taken up easily.”

Birdie snorted. “I don't think fences would keep those little heathens from running across the flower beds.”

Edith shrugged. “Might slow them down a wee bit.”

Dana Klackenbush punched her needle through the quilt, then yelped as she pricked her finger. “Sorry! But I was thinking that maybe we could do a better job of advertising that the day-care center is open all day. We could offer a special rate for, say, three hours, so the parents could explore the island and visit the booths without having to watch their little ones.”

Birdie glared over the tops of her specs. “It's not the little ones who cause the trouble. It's the middle-sized ones.”

“And the big ones,” Bea echoed. “Teenagers.” She shuddered.

Dana lifted her hand. “Okay—we'll have a special party for teens and preteens at the north end of the island. I'll bet Yakov would be willing to take the older kids down there.” She glanced at Barbara. “Maybe Russell would help him? They could play some music, maybe serve pizza—”

Edith clapped her hands. “That's a grand idea! What a ministry to the older kids, who are usually bored silly anyway. Winslow will help, I know he will. He loves teenagers.” She pointed to Vernie. “Be sure the information is on the flyers we'll be sending out, OK? We'll have a ‘teen scene' down at the lighthouse.”

Barbara smothered a smile as Vernie blinked at the pastor's wife. “A teen scene?”

Edith grinned. “Why not? Oh, maybe we can think of a better name for it, but yes, let's do it.”

Vernie waved a hand in Edith's direction, then took her seat back at the quilting frame. “Whatever. Okay—what booths do we already have? The pottery booth is always a good draw. We need to enlarge that area so more people can get in to see Zuriel's stuff. And Charles Graham's paintings should have a more prominent place, maybe closer to the dock than last year.”

Bea agreed. “The bake sale is always a good moneymaker. Cookies do well, anything people can carry away.”

“I was at a festival last fall,” Olympia commented, “where one woman made a fortune allowing tourists to go through her home. I'd be happy to open Frenchman's Fairest again this year, but Caleb really isn't up to leading the tours. Can one of you suggest a servant who might be willing to lend a hand?”

“Micah might be able to help,” Cleta offered. “And it seems fittin', since you're my across-the-street neighbor.” She winked at Vernie. “I can't picture Micah boogieing down at the teen scene.”

“If I send Yakov to help with the teens and preteens,” Dana said, “I'll need some help with the wee ones at the house. You can't leave bed babies alone while you tend to toddlers.” She turned toward Barbara. “What about you, hon? Would you be free to help with the babies?”

Barbara froze, conscious only of the fact that her mother's busy hands had stilled as well. Like blood out of a wound, silence spread from Barbara's place and spilled over the quilt. Unable to stand the tense silence, Barbara lunged out of her chair and ran toward the restroom, a sob escaping her throat.

In the bathroom, she ran the water, splashed her hands, then wet a paper towel and pressed the damp material to her cheeks. Slipping off her glasses, she held the cool towel to her eyelids and told herself to relax.

She had to get a grip on her emotions. These women were her friends, hers and her mother's. They weren't the enemy, and right now they were probably thinking she had slipped a gear.

She had to face them; she had to give them some rational explanation.

When she reentered the room, her mother was still frowning at Dana.

“I'm so sorry,” Dana whispered, catching Barbara's eye. “I—I didn't think.”

“It's all right,” Barbara said, nodding. “I'm just having a bad day.” She bit back a bitter laugh. A bad
was more accurate.

The women turned to their work, but conversation didn't start up again for a few minutes. Barbara picked up her needle and concentrated on her stitches until Edith spoke up.

“We've all experienced God working in our lives, but we sometimes forget that not everything is laid out all plain and simple,” the pastor's wife said. “We say, ‘God works in mysterious ways,' and that's right, but it's a trite saying. We can't always comprehend how he works, and we find it hard to have faith in what we can't see or understand. But one day we will be able to look back and see how things came together in just the right way. God's perfection.”

The women all nodded.

Bea rethreaded her needle. “That's hard to keep in mind, but it's the truth.”

Barbara finally found her voice. “Dana, I'd be happy to help with the bed babies.”

Cleta looked up in surprise. “If you're not up to it, Doodles—”

“I'm up to it, Mom.” She smiled at Dana. “I want to do it. And I'm OK.”

From the corner of her eye, Barbara saw her mother shake her head, then return to quilting with quick, jabbing movements.

Sighing, Barbara concentrated on a long row of stitches. On the walk home, Mom would try to talk her out of helping Dana with the babies. But she wasn't going to be deterred. Maybe she couldn't have a baby, but that didn't mean she could avoid every baby shower and every drooling grin. If God didn't mean for her to have children, she had to accept the good with the bad.

Still, it hurt. Why couldn't she have babies when other women got pregnant without half trying? Was God punishing her for something? No, he didn't work that way . . . at least, she didn't think he did.

And while she'd like to find some reason for her infertility, deep down she suspected she wasn't ready for the responsibilities of motherhood. Why, she couldn't even stand up to her mother without feeling guilty. What made her think she could take care of a child? She couldn't even make up her mind about getting a new hairstyle, and the thought of seeing a doctor made her woozy. So how would she ever be able to handle a sick child in a medical emergency? She'd never be able to do it.

Vernie's crackling voice cut into her thoughts. “Did you see the way Dr. Marc's son was looking at Annie Cuvier at the New Year's Eve party? We'll be having another wedding before too long if I'm not mistaken.”

Barbara exhaled softly. Annie and Alex would probably fall in love and have beautiful, smart, talented babies. Dozens of them. They'd eat luscious homegrown winter tomatoes while Barbara grew old and useless, remaining at home with her Mom and Dad. Russell would get sick of the situation and take off like Stanley Bidderman did, leaving town without a word of explanation, while Barbara sat in her empty bedroom and cried—

“Ow!” Barbara pulled the needle from her fingertip, then stuck her finger in her mouth.

Cleta pressed a hand to her shoulder. “Do you need a Band-Aid?”

“I'm fine.” She
thrust the needle back into the fabric.

Bea picked up the thread of conversation. “Did you see Isabel Potter's new baby? She's the lady who manages the butcher shop on Shore Road. Beautiful little baby. Surprising after thirty-nine hours of labor. Most of 'em have a pointy head after all that.”

Cleta perked up. “Thirty-nine? Why, I thought thirty-six hours was bad. I thought I'd die.” She laughed. “Once I heard about this woman whose water broke on the way to the hospital. They had to yank her out of the car so she could give birth on the side of the road.”

Olympia's nostrils flared slightly. “My sister-in-law knew a woman whose child was coming prematurely. They took her to the hospital and sewed the birth canal shut so the child couldn't come out for another week or so. That poor woman must have suffered agony—”

Tuning out the stories, Barbara concentrated on her stitches.

Awash in sympathy, Cleta watched her daughter. Barbara had to be hearing every word, and such things weren't proper topics of conversation for a young woman of her sensitive nature. Barbara didn't need to be hearing about babies and doctors and sutures. She didn't need to be thinking about anything but growing up and being happy.

While the others might disagree with her, Cleta knew Barbara was better off staying at the bed-and-breakfast where Cleta could watch over her. It had always been that way, and it should always be that way—at least until Barbara was older.

“I wish we had some more fund-raising ideas for Puffin Days,” Vernie said, returning to the original topic. “Maybe the men will have some suggestions about how to fill the community chest.”

“Floyd won't have any new ideas.” Cleta sighed. “He's only concerned about getting new tires for the fire truck. The old ones are worn to the steel belt, but the city budget won't stand the purchase of new tires. He's fussed over it for months now.”

BOOK: A Perfect Love
9.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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